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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine - April 1843 by Various

Part 3 out of 6

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for hours together in her apartments--as he was a relation; and
Seltanetta, with two or three of her personal attendants, seated on
cushions, and engaged in needlework, would not remark how the hours
flew by, conversing with the guest, and listening to his talk.
Sometimes Ammalat would sit long, long, reclining at the feet of his
Seltanetta, without uttering a word, and gazing at her dark,
absorbing eyes; or enjoying the mountain prospect from her window,
which opened towards the north, on the rugged banks and windings of
the roaring Ouzen, over which hung the castle of the Khan. By the
side of this being, innocent as a child, Ammalat forgot the desires
which she as yet knew not; and, dissolving in a joy, strange,
incomprehensible to himself, he thought not of the past nor of the
future; he thought of nothing--he could only feel; and indolently,
without taking the cup from his lips, he drained his draught of bliss,
drop by drop.

Thus passed a year.

The Avaretzes are a free people, neither acknowledging nor suffering
any power above them. Every Avaretz calls himself an Ouzden; and if
he possesses a yezeer, (prisoner, slave,) he considers himself a
great man. Poor, and consequently brave to extravagance, excellent
marksmen with the rifle, they fight well on foot; they ride on
horseback only in their plundering expeditions, and even then but a
few of them. Their horses are small, but singularly strong; their
language is divided into a multitude of dialects, but is essentially
Lezghin for the Avartzi themselves are of the Lezghin stock. They
retain traces of the Christian faith, for it is not 120 years that
they have worshipped Mahomet, and even now they are but cool Moslems;
they drink brandy, they drink booza, [16] and occasionally wine made
of grapes, but most ordinarily a sort of boiled wine, called among
them djapa. The truth of an Avaretz's word has passed into a proverb
among the mountains. At home, they are peaceful, hospitable, and
benevolent; they do not conceal their wives and daughters; for their
guest they are ready to die, and to revenge to the end of the
generation. Revenge, among them, is sacred; plundering, glory; and
they are often forced by necessity to brigandize.

[Footnote 16: A species of drink used by the Tartars, produced by
fermenting oats.]

Passing over the summit of Atala and Tkhezerouk, across the crests of
Tourpi-Taou, in Kakhetia, beyond the river Alazan, they find
employment at a very low price; occasionally remaining two or three
days together without work, and then, at an agreement among
themselves, they rush like famished wolves, by night, into the
neighbouring villages, and, if they succeed, drive away the cattle,
carry off the women, make prisoners, and will often perish in an
unequal combat. Their invasions into the Russian limits ceased from
the time when Azlan Khan retained possession of the defiles which
lead into his territories from Avar. But the village of Khounzakh,
or Avar, at the eastern extremity of the Avar country, has ever
remained the heritage of the khans, and their command there is law.
Besides, though he has the right to order his noukers to cut to
pieces with their kinjals [17] any inhabitant of Khounzakh, nay,
any passer-by, the Khan cannot lay any tax or impost upon the people,
and must content himself with the revenues arising from his flocks,
and the fields cultivated by his karavashes (slaves,) or yezeers

[Footnote 17: Dagger or poniard. These weapons are of various forms,
and generally much more formidable than would be suggested to an
European by the name dagger. The kinjal is used with wonderful force
and dexterity by the mountaineers, whose national weapon it may be
said to be; it is sometimes employed even as a missile. It is worn
suspended in a slanting direction in the girdle, not on the side,
but in front of the body.]

Without, however, taking any direct imposts, the khans do not
abstain from exacting dues, sanctified rather by force than custom.
For the Khan to take from their home a young man or a girl--to
command a waggon with oxen or buffaloes to transport his goods--to
force labourers to work in his fields, or to go as messengers, &c.,
is an affair of every day. The inhabitants of Khounzakh are not more
wealthy than the rest of their countrymen; their houses are clean,
and, for the most part, have two stories, the men are well made, the
women handsome, chiefly because the greater number of them are
Georgian prisoners. In Avar, they study the Arabic language, and the
style of their educated men is in consequence very flowery. The Haram
of the Khan is always crowded with guests and petitioners, who,
after the Asiatic manner, dare not present themselves without a
present--be it but a dozen of eggs. The Khan's noukers, on the
number and bravery of whom he depends for his power, fill from
morning to night his courts and chambers, always with loaded pistols
in their belt, and daggers at their waist. The favourite Ouzdens and
guests, Tchetchenetzes or Tartars, generally present themselves every
morning to salute the Khan, whence they depart in a crowd to the
Khansha, sometimes passing the whole day in banqueting in separate
chambers, regaling even during the Khan's absence. One day there
came into the company an Ouzden of Avar, who related the news that
an immense tiger had been seen not far off, and that two of their
best shots had fallen victims to its fierceness. "This has so
frightened our hunters," he said, "that nobody likes to attempt the
adventure a third time."

"I will try my luck," cried Ammalat, burning with impatience to show
his prowess before the mountaineers. "Only put me on the trail of the
beast!" A broad-shouldered Avaretz measured with his eye our bold
Bek from head to foot, and said with a smile: "A tiger is not like a
boar of Daghestan, Ammalat! His trail sometimes leads to death!"

"Do you think," answered he haughtily, "that on that slippery path
my head would turn, or my hand tremble? I invite you not to help me:
I invite you but to witness my combat with the tiger. I hope you will
then allow, that if the heart of an Avaretz is firm as the granite
of his mountains, the heart of a Daghestanetz is tenpered like his
famous _boulat_. [18] Do you consent?"

[Footnote 18: A species of highly tempered steel, manufactured, and
much prized, by the Tartars.]

The Avaretz was caught. To have refused would have been shameful:
so, clearing up his face, he stretched out his hand to Ammalat.
"I will willingly go with you," he replied. "Let us not delay--let
us swear in the mosque, and go to the fight together! Allah will
judge whether we are to bring back his skin for a housing, or
whether he is to devour us."

It is not in accordance with Asiatic manners, much less with Asiatic
customs, to bid farewell to the women when departing for a long or
even an unlimited period. This privilege belongs only to relations,
and it is but rarely that it is granted to a guest. Ammalat,
therefore, glanced with a sigh at the window of Seltanetta, and went
with lingering steps to the mosque. There, already awaited him the
elders of the village, and a crowd of curious idlers. By an ancient
custom of Avar, the hunters were obliged to swear upon the Koran,
that they would not desert one another, either in the combat with
the beast or in the chase; that they would not quit each other when
wounded; if fate willed that the animal should attack them, that
they would defend each other to the last, and die side by side,
careless of life; and that in any case they would not return without
the animal's skin; that he who betrayed this oath, should be hurled
from the rocks, as a coward and traitor. The moollah armed them, the
companions embraced, and they set out on their journey amid the
acclamations of the whole crowd. "Both, or neither!" they cried
after them. "We will slay him, or die!" answered the hunters.

A day had passed. A second had sunk below the snowy summits. The old
men had wearied their eyes in gazing from their roofs along the road.
The boys had gone far on the hills that crested the village, to meet
the hunters--but no tidings of them. Throughout all Khounzakh, at
every fireside, either from interest or idleness, they were talking
of this; but above all, Seltanetta was sad. At every voice in the
courtyard, at every sound on the staircase, all her blood flew to
her face, and her heart beat with anxiety. She would start up, and
run to the window or the door; and then, disappointed for the
twentieth time, with downcast eyes would return slowly to her
needlework, which, for the first time, appeared tiresome and endless.
At last, succeeding doubt, fear laid its icy hand upon the maiden's
heart. She demanded of her father, her brothers, the guests, whether
the wounds given by a tiger were dangerous?--was this animal far
from the villages? And ever and anon, having counted the moments,
she would wring her hands, and cry, "They have perished!" and
silently bowed her head on her agitated breast, while large tears
flowed down her fair face.

On the third day, it was clear that the fears of all were not idle.
The Ouzden, Ammalat's companion to the chase, crawled with difficulty,
alone, into Khounzakh. His coat was torn by the claws of some wild
beast; he himself was as pale as death from exhaustion, hunger, and
fatigue. Young and old surrounded him with eager curiosity; and
having refreshed himself with a cup of milk and a piece of _tchourek_,
[19] he related as follows:--"On the same day that we left this place,
we found the track of the tiger. We discovered him asleep among the
thick hazels--may Allah keep me from them!"

[Footnote 19: "Tchourek," a kind of bread.]

Drawing lots, it fell to my chance to fire: I crept gently up, and
aiming well, I fired--but for my sorrow, the beast was sleeping with
his face covered by his paw; and the ball, piercing the paw, hit him
in the neck. Aroused by the report and by the pain, the tiger gave a
roar, and with a couple of bounds, dashed at me before I had time to
draw my dagger: with one leap, he hurled me on the ground, trode on
me with his hind feet, and I only know that at this moment there
resounded a cry, and the shot of Ammalat, and afterwards a deafening
and tremendous roar. Crushed by the weight, I lost sense and memory,
and how long I lay in this fainting fit, I know not.

"When I opened my eyes all was still around me, a small rain was
falling from a thick mist ... was it evening or morning? My gun,
covered with rust, lay beside me, Ammalat's not far off, broken in
two; here and there the stones were stained with blood ... but whose?
The tiger's or Ammalat's? How can I tell? Broken twigs lay around ...
the brute must have broken them in his mad boundings. I called on my
comrade as loudly as I could. No answer. I sat down, and shouted
again ... but in vain. Neither animal nor bird passed by. Many times
did I endeavour to find traces of Ammalat, either to discover him
alive, or to die upon his corpse--that I might avenge on the beast
the death of the brave man; but I had no strength. I wept bitterly:
why have I perished both in life and honour! I determined to await
the hour of death in the wilderness; but hunger conquered me. Alas!
thought I, let me carry to Khounzakh the news that Ammalat has
perished; let me at least die among my own people! Behold me, then;
I have crept hither like a serpent. Brethren, my head is before you:
judge me as Allah inclines your hearts. Sentence me to life; I will
live, remembering your justice: condemn me to death; your will be
done! I will die innocent, Allah is my witness: I did what I could!"

A murmur arose among the people, as they listened to the new comer.
Some excused, others condemned, though all regretted him. "Every one
must take care of himself," said some of the accusers: "who can say
that he did not fly? He has no wound, and, therefore, no proof ...
but that he has abandoned his comrade is most certain." "Not only
abandoned, but perhaps betrayed him," said others--"they talked not
as friends together!" The Khan's noukers went further: they
suspected that the Ouzden had killed Ammalat out of jealousy:
"he looked too lovingly on the Khan's daughter, but the Khan's
daughter found one far his superior in Ammalat."

Sultan Akhmet Khan, learning what the people were assembling about in
the street, rode up to the crowd. "Coward!" he cried with mingled
anger and contempt to the Ouzden: "you are a disgrace to the name of
Avaretz. Now every Tartar may say, that we let wild beasts devour our
guests, and that we know not how to defend them! At least we know how
to avenge him: you have sworn upon the Koran, after the ancient
usage of Avar, never to abandon your comrade in distress, and if he
fall, not to return home without the skin of the beast ... thou hast
broken thine oath ... but we will not break our law: perish! Three
days shall be allowed thee to prepare thy soul; but then--if Ammalat
be not found, thou shalt be cast from the rock. You shall answer for
his head with your own!" he added, turning to his noukers, pulling
his cap over his eyes and directing his horse towards his home.
Thirty mountaineers rushed in different directions from Khounzakh,
to search for at least the remains of the Bek of Bouinaki. Among the
mountaineers it is considered a sacred duty to bury with honour
their kinsmen and comrades, and they will sometimes, like the heroes
of Homer, rush into the thickest of the battle to drag from the
hands of the Russians the body of a companion, and will fall in
dozens round the corpse rather than abandon it.

The unfortunate Ouzden was conducted to the stable of the Khan; a
place frequently used as a prison. The people, discussing what had
happened, separated sadly, but without complaining, for the sentence
of the Khan was in accordance with their customs.

The melancholy news soon reached Seltanetta, and though they tried to
soften it, it struck terribly a maiden who loved so deeply.
Nevertheless, contrary to their expectation, she appeared tranquil;
she neither wept nor complained, but she smiled no more, and uttered
not a word. Her mother spoke to her; she heard her not. A spark from
her father's pipe burned her dress; she saw it not. The cold wind
blew upon her bosom; she felt it not. All her feelings seemed to
retire into her heart to torture her; but that heart was hidden from
the view, and nothing was reflected in her proud features. The
Khan's daughter was struggling with the girl: it was easy to see
which would yield first.

But this secret struggle seemed to choke Seltanetta: she longed to
fly from the sight of man, and give the reins to her sorrow.
"O heaven!" she thought; "having lost him, may I not weep for him?
All gaze on me, to mock me and watch my every tear, to make sport
for their malignant tongues. The sorrows of others amuse them, Sekina,"
she added, to her maid; "let us go and walk on the bank of the Ouzen."

At the distance of three _agatcha_ [20] from Khounzakh, towards the
west, are the ruins of an ancient Christian monastery, a lonely
monument of the forgotten faith of the aborigines.

[Footnote 20: "Agatcha," seven versts, a measure for riding--for the
pedestrian, the agatcha is four versts.]

The hand of time, as if in veneration, has not touched the church
itself, and even the fanaticism of the people has spared the
sanctuary of their ancestors. It stood entire amid the ruined cells
and falling wall. The dome, with its high pointed roof of stone, was
already darkened by the breath of ages: ivy covered with its tendrils
the narrow windows, and trees were growing in the crevices of the
stones. Within, soft moss spread its verdant carpet, and in the
sultriness a moist freshness breathed there, nourished by a fountain,
which, having pierced the wall, fell tinkling behind the stone altar,
and, dividing into silver ever-murmuring threads of pure water,
filtered among the pavement stones, and crept meandering away. A
solitary ray slanting through the window, flitted over the trembling
verdure, and smiled on the gloomy wall, like a child on its
grandame's knee. Thither Seltanetta directed her steps: there she
rested from the looks which so tormented her: all around was so still,
so soft, so happy; and all augmented but the more her sadness: the
light trembling on the wall, the twittering of the swallows, the
murmur of the fountain, melted into tears the load that weighed upon
her breast, and her sorrow dissolved into lamentation: Sekina went
to pluck the pears which grew in abundance round the church; and
Seltanetta could freely yield to nature.

But sudden, raising her head, she uttered an exclamation of surprise!
before her stood a well-made Avaretz, stained with blood and mire.
"Does not your heart, do not your eyes, O Seltanetta, recognize your
favourite?" No, but with a second glance she knew Ammalat; and
forgetting all but her joy, she threw herself on his neck, embraced
it with her arms, and long, long, gazed fixedly on the much-loved
face; and the fire of confidence, the fire of ecstasy, glimmered
through the still falling tears. Could then the impassioned Ammalat
contain his rapture? He clung like a bee to the rosy lips of
Seltanetta; he had heard enough for his happiness; he was now at the
summit of bliss; the lovers had not yet said a word of their love,
but they already understood each other. "And dost thou then, angel,"
added Ammalat, when Seltanetta, ashamed of the kiss, withdrew from
his embrace: "dost thou love me?"

"Allah protect me!" replied the innocent girl, lowering her eyelashes,
but not her eyes: "Love! that is a terrible word. Last year, going
into the street, I saw them pelting a girl with stones: terrified I
rushed hone, but nowhere could I hide myself: the bloody image of
the sinner was everywhere before me, and her groan yet rings
unceasingly in my ears. When I asked why they had so inhumanly put
to death that unhappy creature, they answered, that she loved a
certain youth!"

"No, dearest, it was not because she loved one, but that she loved
not one alone--because she betrayed some one, it may be, that they
killed her."

"What means '_betrayed_,' Ammalat? I understand it not."

"Oh, God grant that you may never learn what it is to betray; that
you may never forget me for another!"

"Ah, Ammalat, within these four days I have learned how bitter to me
was separation! For a long time I have not seen my brothers Noutsal
and Sourkha, and I meet them with pleasure; but without them I do not
grieve: without you I wish not to live!"

"For thee I am ready to die, my morning-star: to thee I give my
soul--not only life, my beloved!"

The sound of footsteps interrupted the lovers' talk: it was
Seltanetta's attendant. All three went to congratulate the Khan, who
was consoled, and unaffectedly delighted.

Ammalat related in a few words how the affair had occurred.
"Hardly had I remarked that my comrade had fallen when I fired at
the beast, flying, with a ball which broke his jaw. The monster with
a terrific roar began to whirl round, to leap, to roll, sometimes
darting towards me, and then again, tormented by the agony, bounding
aside. At this moment, striking him with the butt of my gun on the
skull, I broke it. I pursued him a long time as soon as he betook
himself to flight, following him by his bloody track: the day began
to fail, and when I plunged my dagger into the throat of the fallen
tiger, dark night had fallen upon the earth. Would I or not, I was
compelled to pass the night with the rocks for a bed-chamber, and the
wolves and jackals for companions. The morning was dark and rainy;
the clouds around my head poured their waters on me like a river. At
ten paces before my face nothing could be seen. Without a view of the
sun, ignorant of the country, in vain I wandered round and round:
weariness and hunger overwhelmed me. A partridge which I shot with my
pistol restored my strength for a while; but I could not find my way
out of my rocky grave. In the evening the only sounds I could hear
were the murmur of water falling from a cliff, or the whistling of
the eagles' wings as they flew through the clouds; but at night the
audacious jackals raised, three paces off, their lamentable song.
This morning the sun rose brightly, and I myself arose more cheerful,
and directed my steps towards the east. I shortly afterwards heard a
cry and a shot: it was your messengers. Overcome by heat, I went to
drink the pure water of the fountain by the old mosque, and there I
met Seltanetta. Thanks be to you, and glory to God!"

"Glory to God, and honour to you!" exclaimed the Sultan, embracing
him. "But your courage has nearly cost us your life, and even that
of your comrade. If you had delayed a day, he would have been obliged
to dance the Sezghinka in the air. You have returned just in time.
Djemboula't, a famous cavalier of Little Kabarda, has sent to invite
you to a foray against the Russians. I would willingly buy
beforehand your glory; as much as you won in your last battle. The
time is short; tomorrow's sun must see you ready."

This news was by no means unwelcome to Ammalat: he decided instantly;
answering, that he would go with pleasure. He felt sure that a
distinguished reputation as a cavalier would ensure him future

But Seltanetta turned pale--bowing her head like a flower, when she
heard of this new and more cruel separation. Her look, as it dwelt
upon Ammalat, showed painful apprehension--the pain of prophetic

"Allah!" she mournfully exclaimed: "more forays, more slaughter.
When will blood cease to be shed in the mountains?"

"When the mountain torrents run milk, and the sugar-canes wave on the
snowy peaks!" said the Khan.


Wildly beautiful is the resounding Terek in the mountains of Darial.
There, like a genie, borrowing his strength from heaven, he wrestles
with Nature. There bright and shining as steel, cutting through the
overshadowing cliff, he gleams among the rocks. There, blackening
with rage, he bellows and bounds like a wild beast, among the
imprisoning cliffs: he bursts, overthrows, and rolls afar their
broken fragments. On a stormy night, when the belated traveller,
enveloped in his furry bourka, gazing fearfully around him, travels
along the bank which hangs over the torrent of Terek, all is terror
such as only a vivid imagination can conceive. With slow steps he
winds along, the rain-torrents stream around his feet, and tumble
upon his head from the rocks which frown above and threaten his
destruction. Suddenly the lightning flashes before his eyes--with
horror he beholds but a black cloud above him, below a yawning gulf,
beside him crags, and before him the roaring Terek. At one moment he
sees its wild and troubled waves raging like infernal spirits chased
by the archangel's brand. After them, with a shout as of laughter,
roll the huge stones. In another moment, the blinding flash is gone,
and he is plunged once more in the dark ocean of night: then bursts
the thunder-crash, jarring the foundations of the rocks, as though a
thousand mountains were dashed against each other, so deafeningly do
the echoes repeat the bellow of the heavens. Then a long-protracted
growl, as of massive oaks plucked up by their roots, or the crash of
bursting rocks, or the yell of the Titans as they were hurled
headlong into the abyss; it mingles with the war of the blast, and
the blast swells to a hurricane, and the rain pours down in torrents.
And again the lightning blinds him, and again the thunder, answering
from afar to the splinter-crash, deafens him. The terrified steed
rears, starts backward--the rider utters a short prayer.

But after this how softly smiles the morning--morn, in whose light
Terek glides, and ripples, and murmurs! The clouds, like a torn veil
whirling on the breeze, appear and vanish fitfully among the icy
peaks. The sunbeams discover jagged profiles of the summits on the
opposing mountain wall. The rocks glitter freshly from the rain. The
mountain-torrents leap through the morning mist; and the mists
themselves creep winding through the cliffs, even as the smoke from a
cottage chimney, then twine themselves like a turban round some
ancient tower, while Terek ripples on among the stones, curling as a
tired hound who seeks a resting-place.

In the Caucasus, it must be confessed, there are no waters in which
the mountains can worthily reflect themselves--those giants of
creation. There are no gentle rivers, no vast lakes; but Terek
receives in his stream the tribute of a thousand streamlets. Beneath
the further Caucasus, where the mountains melt into the plain, he
seems to flow calmly and gently, he wanders on in huge curves,
depositing the pebbles he has brought down from the hills. Further on,
bending to the north-west, the stream is still strong, but less noisy,
as though wearied with its fierce strugglings. At length, embraced
by the narrow gorge of Cape M. aloi (Little Kabardi,) the river,
like a good Moslem, bending religiously to the east, and peacefully
spreading over the hated shore, gliding sometimes over beds of stone,
sometimes over banks of clay, falls, by Kizlar, into the basin of
the Caspian. There alone does it deign to bear boats upon its waters,
and, like a labourer, turn the huge wheels of floating mills. On its
right bank, among hillocks and thickets, are scattered the villages
(aoule) of the Kabardinetzes, a tribe which we confound under one
name with the Tcherkess, (Circassians,) who dwell beyond the Kouban,
and with the Tchetchenetzes much lower by the sea. These villages on
the bank are peaceful only in name, for in reality they are the
haunts of brigands, who acknowledge the Russian government only as
far as it suits their interest, capturing, as Russian subjects, from
the mountaineers, the plunder they seize in the Russian frontier.
Enjoying free passage on all sides, they inform those of the same
religion and the same way of thinking, of the movement of our troops,
and the condition of our fortresses; conceal them among themselves
when they are assembling for an incursion, buy their plunder at their
return, furnish them with Russian salt and powder, and not rarely
take themselves a part, secret or open, in their forays. It is
exceedingly irritating to see, even in full view of these
mountaineers, nations hostile to us boldly swim over the Terek, two,
three, or five men at a time, and in broad day set to work to rob;
it being useless to pursue them, as their dress has nothing to
distinguish them from the friendly tribes. On the opposite bank,
though apparently quite peaceable, and employing this as their excuse,
they fall, when in force, upon travellers, carry off cattle and men
when off their guard, slaughter them without mercy, or sell them
into slavery at a distance. To say the truth, their natural position,
between two powerful neighbours, of necessity compels them to have
recourse to these stratagems. Knowing that the Russians will not
pass to the other side of the river to protect them from the revenge
of the mountaineers, who melt away like snow at the approach of a
strong force, they easily and habitually, as well as from inevitable
circumstances, ally themselves to people of their own blood, while
they affect to pay deference to the Russians, whom they fear.

Indeed, there exists among them certain persons really devoted to the
Russians, but the greater number will betray even their own
countrymen for a bribe. In general, the morality of these peaceful
allies of ours is completely corrupted; they have lost the courage
of an independent people, and have acquired all the vices of
half-civilization. Among them an oath is a jest; treachery, their
glory; even hospitality, a trade. Each of them is ready to engage
himself to the Russians in the morning, as a kounak (friend), and at
night to guide a brigand to rob his new friend.

The left bank of the Terek is covered with flourishing stanitzas [21]
of the Kazaks of the Line, the descendants of the famous Zaporojetzes.
Among them is here and there a Christian village. These Kazaks are
distinguished from the mountaineers only by their unshaven heads: their
tools, dress, harness, manners--all are of the mountains. They like the
almost ceaseless war with the mountaineers; it is not a battle, but a
trial of arms, in which each party desires to gain glory by his
superiority in strength, valour, and address. Two Kazaks would not
fear to encounter four mountain horsemen, and with equal numbers
they are invariably victors. Lastly, they speak the Tartar language;
they are connected with the mountaineers by friendship and alliance,
their women being mutually carried off into captivity; but in the
field they are inflexible enemies. As it is not forbidden to make
incursions on the mountain side of the Terek, the brigands
frequently betake themselves thither by swimming the river, for the
chase of various kinds of game. The mountain brigands, in their turn,
frequently swim over the Terek at night, or cross it on bourdouchs,
(skins blown up,) hide themselves in the reeds, or under a
projection of the bank, thence gliding through the thickets to the
road, to carry off an unsuspecting traveller, or to seize a woman,
as she is raking the hay. It sometimes happens that they will pass a
day or two in the vineyards by the village, awaiting a favourable
opportunity to fall upon it unexpectedly; and hence the Kazak of the
Line never stirs over his threshold without his dagger, nor goes
into the field without his gun at his back: he ploughs and sows
completely armed.

[Footnote 21: Villages of Kazaks.]

For some time past, the mountaineers had fallen in considerable
numbers only on Christian villages, for in the stanitzas the
resistance had cost them very dear. For the plundering of houses;
they approached boldly yet cunningly the Russian frontier, and on
such occasions they frequently escaped a battle. The bravest Ouzdens
desire to meet with these affairs that they may acquire fame, which
they value even more than plunder.

In the autumn of the year 1819, the Kabardinetzes and Tchetchenetzes,
encouraged by the absence of the commander-in-chief, assembled to the
number of 1500 men to make an attack upon one of the villages beyond
the Terek, to seize it, carry off prisoners, and take the droves of
horses. The leader of the Kabardinetzes was the Prince (Kniazek)
Djenboulat. Ammalat Bek, who had arrived with a letter from Sultan
Akhmet Khan, was received with delight. They did not, indeed, assign
him the command of any division; but this arose from the
circumstance that with them there is no order of battle or gradation
of command; an active horse and individual courage secures the most
distinguished place in action. At first they deliberate how best to
begin the attack--how to repel the enemy; but afterwards they pay no
attention to plan or order, and chance decides the affair. Having
sent messengers to summon the neighbouring Ouzdens, Djemboulat fixed
on a place of assembling; and immediately, on a signal agreed on,
from every height spread the cry, "Gharai, gharai!" (alarm,) and in
one hour the Tchetchenetzes and Kabardinetzes were assembling from
all sides. To avoid treason, no one but the leader knew where the
night-camp was to be, from which they where to cross the river. They
were divided into small bands, and were to go by almost invisible
paths to the peaceful village, where they were to conceal themselves
till night. By twilight, all the divisions were already mustered. As
they arrived, they were received by their countrymen with frank
embraces; but Djemboulat, not trusting to this, guarded the village
with sentinels, and proclaimed to the inhabitants, that whoever
attempted to desert to the Russians should be cut in pieces. The
greater part of the Ouzdens took up their quarters in the saklas of
their kounaks or relations; but Djemboulat and Ammalat, with the
best of the cavaliers, slept in the open air round a fire, when they
had refreshed their jaded horses. Djemboulat, wrapped in his bourka,
was considering, with folded arms, the plan of the expedition; but
the thoughts of Ammalat were far from the battle-field: they were
flying, eagle-winged, to the mountains of Avar, and bitterly,
bitterly did he feel his separation. The sound of an instrument, the
mountain balalaika, (kanous,) accompanying a slow air, recalled him
from his reverie, and a Kabardinetz sung an ancient song.

"On Kazbek the clouds are meeting,
like the mountain eagle-flock;
up to them, along the rock,
Dash the wild Ouzdens retreating;
Onward faster, faster fleeting,
Routed by the Russian brood.
Foameth all their track with blood."

"Fast behind the regiments yelling,
Lance and bayonet raging hot,
And the seed of death their shot.
On the mail the sabre dwelling
Gallop, steed! for far thy dwelling--
See! they fall--but distant still
Is the forest of the hill!"

"Russian shot our hearts is rending,
Falls the Mullah on his knee,
To the Lord of Light bows he,
To the Prophet he is bending:
Like a shaft his prayer ascending,
Upward flies to Allah's throne--
Il-Allah! O save thine own!"

"Ah, despair!--What crash like thunder!
Lo! a sign from heaven above!
Lo! the forest seems to move
Crashes, murmurs, bursts asunder!
Lower, nearer, wonder! wonder!
Safe once more the Moslem bold
In their forest mountain-hold!"

"So it was in old times," said Djemboulat, with a smile, "when our
old men trusted more to prayer, and God oftener listened to them; but
now, my friends, there is a better hope--your valour! _Our_ omens are
in the scabbards of our shooshkas, (sabres,) and we must show that we
are not ashamed of them. Harkye, Ammalat," he continued, twisting his
mustache, "I will not conceal from you that the affair may be warm. I
have just heard that Colonel K---- has collected his division; but
where he is, or how many troops he has, nobody knows."

"The more Russians there are the better," replied Ammalat, quietly;
"the fewer mistakes will be made."

"And the heavier will be the plunder."

"I care not for that. I seek revenge and glory."

"Glory is a good bird, when she lays a golden egg; but he that
returns with his toroks (straps behind the saddle) empty, is ashamed
to appear before his wife. Winter is near, and we must provide our
households at the expense of the Russians, that we may feast our
friends and allies. Choose your station, Ammalat Bek. Do you prefer
to advance in front to carry off the flocks, or will you remain with
me in the rear? I and the Abreks will march at a foot's pace to
restrain the pursuers."

"That is what I also intend. I will be where the greatest peril is.
But what are the Abreks, Djemboulat?"

"It is not easy to explain. You sometimes see several of our boldest
cavaliers take an oath, binding them for two or three years, or as
long as they like, never to mingle in games or gayeties, never to
spare their lives in battle, to give no quarter, never to pardon the
least offence in a brother or a friend, to seize the goods of others
without fear or scruple--in a word, to be the foes of all mankind,
strangers in their family, men whom any person may slay if he can;
in the village they are dangerous neighbours, and in meeting them
you must keep your hand on the trigger; but in war one can trust them."

"For what motive, or reason, can the Ouzdens make such an engagement?"

"Some simply to show their courage, others from poverty, a third
class from some misfortune. See, for instance, yonder tall Kabardinetz;
he has sworn to be an Abrek for five years, since his mistress
died of the small-pox. Since that year it would be as well to make
acquaintance with a tiger as with him. He has already been wounded
three times for blood-vengeance; but he cares not for that."

"Strange custom! How will he return from the life of an Abrek to a
peaceable existence?"

"What is there strange in this? The past glides from him as water
from the wild-duck. His neighbours will be delighted when he has
finished his term of brigandage. And he, after putting off Abretchestva
(Abrekism) as a serpent sheds his skin, will become gentle
as a lamb. Among us, none but the avenger of blood remembers
yesterday. But the night is darkening. The mists are spreading over
Terek. It is time for the work."

Djemboulat whistled, and his whistle was repeated to all the
outposts of the camp. In a moment the whole band was assembled.
Several Ouzdens joined from the neighbouring friendly villages.
After a short discussion as to the passage of the river, the band
moved in silence to the bank. Ammalat Bek could not but admire the
stillness, not only of the riders, but of their horses; not one of
them neighed or snorted, and they seemed to place their feet on the
ground with caution. They marched like a voiceless cloud, and soon
they reached the bank of Terek, which, making a winding at this spot,
formed a promontory, and from it to the opposite shore, extended a
pebbly shoal. The water over this bank was shallow and fordable;
nevertheless, a part of the detachment left the shore higher up, in
order to swim past the Kazaks, and, diverting their attention from
the principal passage, to cover the fording party. Those who had
confidence in their horses, leaped unhesitatingly from the bank,
while others tied to each fore-foot of their steeds a pair of small
skins, inflated with air like bladders; the current bore them on,
and each landed wherever he found a convenient spot. The
impenetrable veil of mist concealed all these movements. It must be
remarked, that along the whole line of the river is a chain of mayaks
(watch-towers) and a cordon of sentinels: on all the hills and
elevated spots are placed look-outs. On passing before them in the
daytime, may be seen on each hillock a pole, surmounted with a small
barrel. This is filled with pitch and straw, and is ready to be
lighted on the first alarm. To this pole is generally tied a Kazak's
horse, and by his side a sentinel. In the night, these sentinels are
doubled; but in spite of the precautions, the Tcherkess, concealed
by the fog, and clothed in their bourka, sometimes pass through the
line in small bodies, as water glides through a sieve. The same
thing happened on this occasion: perfectly acquainted with the
country, the Belads, (guides) peaceable Tcherkess, led each party,
and in profound silence avoided the hillocks.

[Footnote 22: This is exactly the Berserkir of the ancient Northmen.
Examples of this frantic courage are not rare among the Asiatics.]

In two places only had the brigands, to break through the line of
watch-fires which might have betrayed them, resolved to kill the
sentinels. Against one picket, Djemboulat proceeded himself, and he
ordered another Bek to creep up the bank, pass round to the rear of
the picket, count a hundred, and then to strike fire with a flint
and steel several times. It was said and done. Just lifting his head
above the edge of the bank, Djemboulat saw a Kazak slumbering with
the match in his hand, and holding his horse by the bridle. As soon
as the clicking struck his ear, the sentinel started, and turned an
anxious look on the river. Fearing that the sentinel did not remark
him, Djemboulat threw up his cap, and again crouched down behind the
bank. "Accursed duck!" said the Donetz; "for this night is a carnival.
They squatter away like the witches of Kieff." At this moment, the
sparks appeared on the opposite side, and drew his attention: "'Tis
the wolves," thought he: "sometimes their eyes glitter brightly!" But
the sparks reappearing, he was stupefied, remembering stories that
the Tchetchenetzes sometimes use this kind of signal to regulate the
movements of their march. This moment of suspense and irresolution was
the moment of his destruction; a dagger [23], directed by a strong arm,
whistled through the air, and the Kazak, transfixed, fell without a
groan to the earth. His comrade was sabred in his sleep, and the pole
with the tub was torn down, and was thrown into the river. All then
rapidly assembled at the given signal, and dashed in a moment on the
village which they had determined to attack. The blow was successfully,
that is, quite unexpectedly, struck. Such of the peasants as had time
to arm, were killed after a desperate resistance: the others hid
themselves or fled. Besides the plunder, a number of men and women
was the reward of their boldness. The Kabardinetzes broke into the
houses, carrying off all that was most valuable, indeed every thing
that came to hand: but they did not set fire to the houses, nor did
they tread down the corn, nor break the vines: "Why touch the gift
of God, and the labour of man?" said they; and this rule of a
mountain robber, who shrinks at no crime, is a virtue which the most
civilized nations might envy. In an hour, all was over for the
inhabitants, but not for the brigands. The alarm spread along the
line, and the mayaks soon began to glimmer through the fog like the
stars of morning, while the call to arms resounded in every direction.
In this interval, a party of the more experienced among the brigands
had gone round the troop of horses which was grazing far in the
steppe. The herdsman was seized, and with cries, and firing their
guns, they charged at the horses from the land side. The animals
started, threw mane and tail into the air, and dashed headlong on
the track of a Tcherkess mounted on a superb steed, who had remained
on the bank of the river to guide the frightened herd. Like a
skilful pilot, well acquainted, even in a fog, with all the dangers
of the desert sea, the Tcherkess flew on before the horses, wound
his way among the posts, and at last, having chosen a spot where the
bank was most precipitous, leaped headlong into the Terek. The whole
herd followed him: nothing could be seen but the foam that flew into
the air. Daybreak appeared; the fog began to separate, and
discovered a picture at once magnificent and terrible. The principal
band of forayers dragged the prisoners after it--some were at the
stirrup, others behind the saddle, with their arms tied at their
backs. Tears, and groans, and cries of despair were stifled by the
threats and frantic cries of joy of the victors. Loaded with plunder,
impeded by the flocks and horned cattle, they advanced slowly
towards the Terek. The princes and best cavaliers, in mail-coats and
casques glittering like water, galloped around the dense mass, as
lightning flashes round a livid cloud. In the distance, were
galloping up from every point the Kazaks of the Line; they ambushed
behind the shrubs and straggling oak-trees, and soon began an irregular
fire with the brigands who were sent against them.

[Footnote 23: The Tartars and Circassians possess extraordinary
dexterity in the use of their national weapon--the kinjal, or poniard.
These are sometimes of great size and weight, and when thrown by a
skilful hand, will fly a considerable distance, and with the most
singular accuracy of aim.]

In the meantime, the foremost had driven across the river a portion
of the flocks, when a cloud of dust, and the tramp of cavalry,
announced the approaching storm. About six hundred mountaineers,
commanded by Djemboulat and Ammalat, turned their horses to repulse
the attack, and give time to the rest to escape by the river.
Without order, but with wild cries and shouts, they dashed forward
to meet the Kazaks; but not a single gun was taken from its belt,
not a single shashka glimmered in the air: a Tcherkess waits till
the last moment before he seizes his weapons. And thus, having
galloped to the distance of twenty paces, they levelled their
guns, fired at full speed, threw their fire-arms over their backs,
[24] and drew their shashkas; but the Kazaks of the Line having
replied with a volley, began to fly, and the mountaineers, heated by
the chase, fell into a stratagem which they often employ themselves.
The Kazaks had led them up to the chasseurs of the brave forty-third
regiment, who were concealed at the edge of the forest. Suddenly, as
if the little squares had started out of the earth, the bayonets
were leveled, and the fire poured on them, taking them in flank. It
was in vain that the mountaineers, dismounting from their horses,
essayed to occupy the underwood, and attack the Russians from the
rear; the artillery came up, and decided the affair. The experienced
Colonel Kortsareff, the dread of the Tchetchenetz, the man whose
bravery they feared, and whose honesty and disinterestedness they
respected, directed the movements of the troops, and success could
not be doubtful. The cannon dispersed the crowds of brigands, and
their grape flew after the flying. The defeat was terrible; two
guns, dashing at a gallop to the promontory, not far from which the
Tcherkess were throwing themselves into the river, enfiladed the stream;
with a rushing sound, the shot flew over the foaming waves, and at
each fire some of the horses might be seen to turn over with their
feet in the air, drowning their riders. It was sad to see how the
wounded clutched at the tails and bridles of the horses of their
companions, sinking them without saving themselves--how the
exhausted struggled against the scarped bank, endeavouring to
clamber up, fell back, and were borne away and engulfed by the
furious current. The corpses of the slain were whirled away, mingled
with the dying and streaks of blood curled and writhed like serpents
on the foam. The smoke floated far along the Terek, far in the
distance, and the snowy peaks of Caucasus, crowned with mist,
bounded the field of battle. Djemboulat and Ammalat Bek fought
desperately--twenty times did they rush to the attack, twenty times
were they repulsed; wearied, but not conquered, with a hundred
brigands they swam the river, dismounted, attached their horses to
each other by the bridle, and began a warm fire from the other side
of the river, to cover their surviving comrades. Intent upon this,
they remarked, too late, that the Kazaks were passing the river above
them; with a shout of joy, the Russians leaped upon the bank, and
surrounded them in a moment. Their fate was inevitable. "Well,
Djemboulat," said the Bek to the Kabardinetz, "our lot is finished.
Do you what you will; but for me, I will not render myself a
prisoner alive. 'Tis better to die by a ball than by a shameful cord!"
"Do you think," answered Djemboulat, "that my arms were made for a
chain! Allah keep me from such a blot: the Russians may take my body,
but not my soul. Never, never! Brethren, comrades!" he cried to the
others; "fortune has betrayed us, but the steel will not. Let us
sell our lives dearly to the Giaour. The victor is not he who keeps
the field, but he who has the glory; and the glory is his who
prefers death to slavery!" "Let us die, let us die; but let us die
gloriously," cried all, piercing with their daggers the sides of
their horses, that the enemy might not take them, and then piling
up the dead bodies of their steeds, they lay down behind the
heap, preparing to meet the attack with lead and steel. Well aware of
the obstinate resistance they were about to encounter, the Kazaks
stopped, and made ready for the charge. The shot from the opposite
bank sometimes fell in the midst of the brave mountaineers,
sometimes a grenade exploded, covering them with earth and fragments;
but they showed no confusion, they started not, nor blenched; and,
after the custom of their country, began to sing, with a melancholy,
yet threatening voice, the death-song, replying alternately stanza
for stanza.

[Footnote 24: The oriental nations carry their guns at their backs,
supported by a strap passing across the breast.]



"Fame to us, death to you,
Alla-ha, Alla-hu!!"


"Weep, O ye maidens, on mountain and valley,
Lift the dirge for the sons of the brave;
We have fired our last bullet, have made our last rally,
And Caucasus gives us a grave.
Here the soft pipe no more shall invite us to slumber
--The thunder _our_ lullaby sings;
Our eyes not the maiden's dark tresses shall cumber,
_Them_ the raven shall shade with his wings!
Forget, O my children, your father's stern duty--
No more shall he bring ye the Muscovite booty!"


"Weep not, O ye maidens; your sisters in splendour,
The Houris, they bend from the sky,
They fix on the brave their sun-glance deep and tender,
And to Paradise bear him on high!
In your feast-cup, my brethren, forget not our story;
The death of the Free is the noblest of glory!"


"Roar, winter torrent, and sullenly dash!
But where is the brave one--the swift lightning-flash?
Soft star of my soul, my mother,
Sleep, the fire let ashes smother;
Gaze no more, shine eyes are weary,
Sit not by the threshold stone;
Gaze not through the night-fog dreary,
Eat thine evening meal alone,
Seek him not, O mother, weeping,
By the cliff and by the ford:
On a bed of dust he's sleeping--
Broken is both heart and sword!"


"Mother, weep not! with thy love burning:
This heart of mine beats full and free,
And to lion-blood is turning
That soft milks I drew from thee;
And our liberty from danger
Thy brave son has guarded well;
Battling with the Christian stranger,
Call'd by Azrael, he fell;
From my blood fresh odours breathing
Fadeless flowers shall drink the dew;
To my children fame bequeathing,
Brethren, and revenge to you!"


"Pray, my brethren, ere we part;
Clutch the steel with hate and wrath!
Break it in the Russian's heart--
O'er corpses lies the brave man's path!
Fame to us, death to you,
Alla-ha, Alla-hu!"

Struck by a certain involuntary awe, the Chasseurs and Kazaks
listened in silence to the stern sounds of this song; but at last a
loud _hurrah_ [25] resounded from both sides. The Teherkess, with a
shout, fired their guns for the last time, and breaking them against
the stones, they threw themselves, dagger in hand, upon the Russians.
The Abreks, in order that their line might not be broken, bound
themselves to each other with their girdles, and hurled themselves
into the melee. Quarter was neither asked nor given: all fell before
the bayonets of the Russians. "Forward! follow me, Ammalat Bek,"
cried Djemboulat, with fury, rushing into the combat which was to be
his last--"Forward! for us death is liberty." But Anmalat heard not
his call; a blow from a musket on the back of the head stretched him
on the earth, already sown with corpses, and covered with blood.

[Footnote 25: "Hurrah" means _strike_ in the Tartar language.]



_From Derbend to Smolensk. October_, 1819.

Two months--how easy to say it!--two centuries have past, dearest
Maria, while your letter was _creeping_ to me. Twice has the moon
made her journey round the earth. You cannot imagine, dearest, how
dreary is this idle objectless life to me; with nothing to employ
me--not even correspondence. I go out, I meet the _Kazak_ [26]
with a secret trembling of heart: with what joy, with what exstacy
do I kiss the lines traced by a pure hand, inspired by a pure
heart--yours, my Maria! With a greedy rapture my eyes devour the
letter: then I am happy--I am wild with joy. But hardly have I
reclosed it when unquiet thoughts again begin to haunt me. "All this
is well," I think; "but all this is past, and I desire to know the
present. Is she well? Does she love me yet? Oh! will the happy time
come soon--soon--when neither time nor distance can divide us? When
the expression of our love will be no longer chilled by the cold
medium of the post!" Pardon, pardon, dearest, these black thoughts
of absence. When heart is--with heart, the lover trusts in all; in
separation he doubts all. You command--for such to me is your
wish--that I should describe my life to you, day by day, hour by hour.
Oh, what sad and tiresome annals mine would be, were I to obey you!
You know well, traitress, that I live not without you. My
existence--'tis but the trace of a shadow on the desert sand. My duty
alone, which wearies at least, if it cannot amuse me, helps me to
get rid of the time. Thrown in a climate ruinous to health, in
society which stifles the soul, I cannot find among my companions a
single person who can sympathise with me. Nor do I find among the
Asiatics any who can understand my thoughts. All that surrounds me
is either so savage or so limited, that it excites sadness and
discontent. Sooner will you obtain fire by striking ice on stone,
than interest from such an existence. But your wish to me is sacred;
and I will present you, in brief, with my last week. It was more
varied than usual.

[Footnote 26: The Kazaks are employed in the Russian army
frequently as couriers.]

I have told you in one of my letters, if I remember, that we are
returning from the campaign of Akoush, with the commander-in-chief.
We have done our work; Shah Ali Khan has fled into Persia; we have
burned a number of villages, hay, and corn; and we have eaten the
sheep of the rebels, when we were hungry. When the snow had driven
the insurgents from their mountain-fastnesses, they yielded and
presented hostages. We then marched to the Fort of Bournaya, [27]
and from this station our detachment was ordered into winter
quarters. Of this division my regiment forms a part, and our
head-quarters are at Derbend.

[Footnote 27: Stormy.]

The other day, the general, who was about to depart on another
campaign on the Line, came to take leave of us, and thus there
was a larger company than usual to meet our adored commander.
Alexei Petrovitch came from his tent, to join us at tea. Who
is not acquainted with his face, from the portraits? But they
cannot be said to know Yermoloff at all, who judge of him only by
a lifeless image. Never was there a face gifted with such nobility
of expression as his! Gazing on those features, chiselled in the
noble outline of the antique, you are involuntarily carried back to
the times of Roman grandeur. The poet was in the right, when he said
of him:--

"On the Kouban--fly, Tartar fleet!
The avenger's falchion gleameth;
His breath--the grapeshot's iron sleet,
His voice--the thunder seemeth!
Around his forehead stern and pale
The fates of war are playing....
He looks--and victory doth quail,
That gesture proud obeying!"

You should witness his coolness in the hour of battle--you should
admire him at a conference: at one time overwhelming the Teberkess
with the flowing orientalisms of the Asiatic, at another
embarrassing their artifices with a single remark. In vain do they
conceal their thoughts in the most secret folds of their hearts; his
eye follows them, disentangles and unrolls them like worms, and
guesses twenty years beforehand their deeds and their intentions.
Then, again, to see him talking frankly and like a friend with his
brave soldiers, or passing with dignity round the circle of the
tchinobniks [28] sent from the capital into Georgia. It is curious to
observe how all those whose conscience is not pure, tremble, blush,
turn pale, when he fixes on them his slow and penetrating glance; you
seem to see the roubles of past bribes gliding before the eyes of the
guilty man, and his villanies come rushing on his memory. You see the
pictures of arrest, trial, judgment, sentence, and punishment, his
imagination paints, anticipating the future. No man knows so well
how to distinguish merit by a single glance, a single smile--to
reward gallantry with a word, coming _from_, and going _to_, the
heart. God grant us many years to serve with such a commander!

[Footnote 28: Literally, a person possessing rank, used here to
signify an _employe_ of Government in a civil capacity--all of whom
possess some definite precedence or class (tchin) in the state. ]

But if it be thus interesting to observe him on duty, how delightful
to associate with him in society--a society to which every one
distinguished for rank, bravery, or intellect, has free access:
_here_ rank is forgotten, formality is banished; every one talks
and acts as he pleases, simply because those only who think and act
as they _ought_, form the society. Alexei Petrovitch jokes with all
like a comrade, and at the same time teaches like a father. As usual,
during tea, one of his adjutants read aloud; it was the account of
Napoleon's Campaign in Italy--that poem of the Art of War, as the
commander-in-chief called it. The company, of course, expressed
their wonder, their admiration, their different opinions and
criticisms. The remarks of Alexei Petrovitch were lucid, and of
admirable truth.

Then began our gymnastic sports, leaping, running, leaping over the
fire, and trials of strength of various kinds. The evening and the
view were both magnificent: the camp was pitched on the side of Tarki;
over it hangs the fortress of Bournaya, behind which the sun was
sinking. Sheltered by a cliff was the house of the Shamkhal, then
the town on a steep declivity, surrounded by the camp, and to the
east the immeasurable steppe of the Caspian sea. Tartar Beks,
Circassian Princes, Kazaks from the various rivers of gigantic Russia,
hostages from different mountains, mingled with the officers.
Uniforms, tchoukhas, coats of chain-mail, were picturesquely mingled;
singing and music rang through the camp, and the soldiers, with
their caps jauntily cocked on one side, were walking in crowds at a
distance. The scene was delightful; it charmed by its picturesque
variety and the force and freshness of military life. Captain Bekovitch
was boasting that he could strike off the head of a buffalo with one
blow of a kinjal; [29] and two of those clumsy animals were immediately

[Footnote 29: It is absurd to observe the incredulity
of Europeans as to the possibility of cutting off a head with the
kinjal: it is necessary to live only one week in the East to be quite
convinced of the possibility of the feat. In a practiced hand the
kinjal is a substitute for the hatchet, the bayonet, and the sabre.]

Bets were laid; all were disputing and doubting. The Captain, with a
smile, seized with his left hand a huge dagger, and in an instant an
immense head fell at the feet of the astonished spectators, whose
surprise was instantly succeeded by a desire to do the same: they
hacked and hewed, but all in vain. Many of the strongest men among
the Russians and Asiatics made unsuccessful attempts to perform the
feat, but to do this strength alone was not sufficient. "You are
children--children!" cried the commander-in-chief: and he rose from
table, calling for his sword--a blade which never struck twice, as he
told us. An immense heavy sabre was brought him, and Alexei Petrovitch,
though confident in his strength, yet, like Ulysses in the Odyssey,
anointing the bow which no one else could bend, first felt the edge,
waved the weapon thrice in the air, and at length addressed himself
to the feat. The betters had hardly time to strike hands when the
buffalo's head bounded at their feet on the earth. So swift and sure
was the blow, that the trunk stood for some instants on its legs,
and then gently, softly, sank down. A cry of astonishment arose from
all: Alexei Petrovitch quietly looked whether his sabre was notched--for
the weapon had cost him many thousands [of roubles], and presented
it as a keepsake to Captain Bekovitch.

We were still whispering among ourselves when there appeared before
the commander-in-chief an officer of the Kazaks of the Line, with a
message from Colonel Kortsareff, who was stationed on the frontier.
When he had received the report, the countenance of Alexei Petrovitch
brightenened--"Kortsareff has gloriously trounced the mountaineers!"
said he. "These rascals have made a plundering expedition beyond the
Terek; they have passed far within the Line, and have plundered a
village--but they have lost not only the cattle they had taken, but
fallen a sacrifice to their own fool-hardiness." Having minutely
questioned Yesoual respecting the details of the affair, he ordered
the prisoners whom they had taken, wounded or recovering, to be
brought before him. Five were led into the presence of the

A cloud passed over his countenance as he beheld them; his brow
contracted, his eyes sparkled. "Villains!" said he to the Ouzdens;
"you have thrice sworn not to plunder; and thrice have you broken
your oath. What is it that you seek? Lands? Flocks? Means to defend
the one or the other? But no! you are willing to accept presents
from the Russians as allies, and at the same time to guide the
Tcherkess to plunder our villages, and to plunder along with them.
Hang them!" said he sternly; "hang them up by their own thievish arkaus
(girdles)! Let them draw lots: the fourth shall be spared--let him
go and tell his countrymen that I am coming to teach them to keep
faith, and keep the peace, as I will have it."

The Ouzdens were conducted away.

There remained one Tartar bek, whom we had not remarked. This was a
young man of twenty-five, of unusual beauty, graceful as the
Belvidere Apollo. He bowed slightly to the commander-in chief as he
approached him, raised his cap, and again resumed his proud
indifferent expression; unshaken resignation to his fate was written
on his features.

The commander-in-chief fixed his stern eye upon his face, but the
young man neither changed countenance nor quivered an eyelash.

"Ammalat Bek," said Alexei Petrovitch, after a pause, "do you
remember that you are a Russian subject? that the Russian laws are
above you?"

"It would have been impossible to forget that," replied the Bek:
"if I had found in those laws a protection for my rights, I should
not now stand before you a prisoner."

"Ungrateful boy!" cried the commander-in-chief; "your father--you
yourself, have been the enemy of the Russians. Had it been during the
Persian domination of your race, not even the ashes would have
remained; but our Emperor was generous, and instead of punishing you
he gave you lands. And how did you repay his kindness? By secret
plot and open revolt! This is not all: you received and sheltered in
your house a sworn foe to Russia; you permitted him, before your eyes,
traitorously to slaughter a Russian officer. In spite of all this,
had you brought me a submissive head, I would have pardoned you, on
account of your youth and the customs of your nation. But you fled
to the mountains, and with Suleiman Akhmet Khan you committed
violence within the Russian bounds; you were beaten, and again you
make an incursion with Djemboulat. You cannot but know what fate
awaits you."

"I do," coldly answered Ammalat Bek: "I shall be shot."

"No! a bullet is too honourable a death for a brigand," cried the
angry general: "a cart with the shafts turned up--a cord round your
neck--that is the fitting reward."

"It is all one how a man dies," replied Ammalat, "provided he dies
speedily. I ask one favour: do not let me be tormented with a trial:
that is thrice death."

"Thou deservest a hundred deaths, audacious! but I promise you. Be it
so: to-morrow thou shalt die. Assemble a court-martial," continued
the commander-in-chief, turning to his staff: "the fact is clear,
the proof is before your eyes, and let all be finished at one sitting,
before my departure."

He waved his hand, and the condemned prisoner was removed.

The fate of this fine young man touched us all. Every body was
whispering about him; every body pitying him; the more, that
there appeared no means of saving him. Every one knew well the
necessity of punishing this double treason, and the inflexibility
of Alexei Petrovitch in matters of this publicity: and, therefore,
no one dared to intercede for the unfortunate culprit. The
commander-in-chief was unusually thoughtful for the remainder of the
evening, and the party separated early. I determined to speak a word
for him--"Perhaps," I thought, "I may obtain some commutation of the
sentence." I opened one of the curtains of the tent, and advanced
softly into the presence of Alexei Petrovitch. He was sitting alone,
resting both arms on a table; before him lay a despatch for the
Emperor, half finished, and which he was writing without any previous
copy. Alexei Petrovitch knew me as an officer of the suite, and we
had been acquainted since the battle of Kulm. At that time he had
been very kind to me, and therefore my visit was not surprising to
him. "I see--I see, Evstafii Ivanovitch, you have a design upon my
heart! In general you come in as if you were marching up to a battery,
but now you hardly walk on tip-toe. This is not for nothing. I am
sure you are come with a request about Ammalat."

"You have guessed it," said I to Alexei Petrovitch, not knowing how
to begin.

"Sit down, then, and let us talk it over," he replied. Then, after a
silence of a couple of minutes, he continued, kindly, "I know that a
report goes about respecting me, that I treat the lives of men as a
plaything--their blood as water. The most cruel tyrants have hidden
their bloodthirstiness under a mask of benevolence. They feared a
reputation for cruelty, though they feared not to commit deeds of
cruelty; but I--I have intentionally clothed myself with this sort
of character, and purposely dressed my name in terror. I desire, and
it is my duty to desire, that my name should protect our frontier
more effectually than lines and fortresses--that a single word of
mine should be, to the Asiatics, more certain, more inevitable, than
death. The European may be reasoned with: he is influenced by
conscience, touched by kindness, attached by pardon, won by
benefits; but to the Asiatic all this is an infallible proof of
weakness; and to him I--even from motives of philanthropy--have
shown myself unmitigably severe. A single execution preserves a
hundred Russians from destruction, and deters a thousand Mussulmans
from treason. Evstafii Ivanovitch, many will not believe my words,
because each conceals the cruelty of his nature, and his secret
revengefulness, under excuses of necessity--each says, with a
pretence of feeling, 'Really I wish from my heart to pardon,
but be judges yourselves--can I? What, after this, are laws--what
is the general welfare?' All this I never say; in my eyes no tear
is seen when I sign a sentence of death: but my heart bleeds."

Alexei Petrovitch was touched; he walked agitatedly several times up
and down the tent; then seated himself, and continued--"Never, in
spite of all this, never has it been so difficult to me to punish as
this day. He who, like me, has lived much among the Asiatics, ceases
to trust in Lavater, and places no more confidence in a handsome
face than in a letter of recommendation; but the look, the expression,
the demeanour of this Ammalat, have produced on me an unusual
impression. I am sorry for him."

"A generous heart," said I, "is a better oracle than reason."

"The heart of a conscientious man, my dear friend, ought to be under
the command of reason. I certainly _can_ pardon Ammalat, but I
_ought_ to punish him. Daghestan is still filled with the enemies
of Russia, notwithstanding their assurances of submission; even
Tarki is ready to revolt at the first movement in the mountains: we
must rivet their chains by punishment, and show the Tartars that no
birth can screen the guilty--that all are equal in the sight of the
Russian law. If I pardon Ammalat, all his relations will begin to
boast that Yermoloff is afraid of the Shamkhal." I remarked, that
indulgence shown to so extensive a clan would have a good effect on
the country--in particular the Shamkhal.

"The Shamkhal is an Asiatic," interrupted Alexei Petrovitch;
"he would be delighted that this heir to the Shamkhalat should be
sent to the Elysian fields. Besides, I care very little to guess or
gratify the wishes of his kinsmen."

I saw that the commander-in-chief began to waver, and I urged him
more pressingly. "Let me serve for three years," said I; "do not
give me leave of absence this year--only have mercy on this young man.
He is young, and Russia may find in him a faithful servant.
Generosity is never thrown away."

Alexei Petrovitch shook his head.

"I have made many ungrateful," said he, "already; but be it so. I
pardon him, and not by halves--that is not my way. I thank you for
having helped me to be merciful, not to say weak. Only remember my
words: You wish to take him to yourself--do not trust him; do not
warm a serpent in your bosom."

I was so delighted with my success, that, hastily quitting the
commander-in-chief, I ran to the tent in which Ammalat Bek was
confined. Three sentinels were guarding him; a lantern was burning
in the midst. I entered; the prisoner was lying wrapped up in his
bourka, and tears were sparkling on his face. He did not hear my
entrance, so profoundly was he buried in thought. To whom is it
pleasant to part with life? I was rejoiced that I brought comfort to
him at so melancholy a moment.

"Ammalat," said I, "Allah is great, and the Sardar is merciful; he
has granted you your life!"

The delighted prisoner started up, and endeavoured to reply, but the
breath was stifled in his breast. Immediately, however, a shade of
gloom covered his features. "Life!" he exclaimed; "I understand this
generosity! To consign a man to a breathless dungeon, without light
or air--to send him to eternal winter, to a night never illumined by
a star--to bury him alive in the bowels of the earth--to take from
him not only the power to act, not only the means of life, but even
the privilege of telling his kinsmen of his sad lot--to deny him not
only the right to complain, but even the power of murmuring his
sorrow to the wind. And this you call life! this unceasing torment
you boast of as rare generosity! Tell the General that I want
not--that I scorn--such a life."

"You are mistaken, Ammalat," I cried; "you are fully pardoned: remain
what you were, the master of your actions and possessions. There is
your sword. The commander-in-chief is sure that in future you will
unsheathe it only for the Russians. I offer you one condition; come
and live with me till the report of your actions has died away. You
shall be to be as a friend, as a brother."

This struck the Asiatic. Tears shone in his eyes. "The Russians have
conquered me," he said: "pardon me, colonel, that I thought ill of
all of you. From henceforth I am a faithful servant of the Russian
Tsar--a faithful friend to the Russians, soul and sword. My sword,
my sword!" he cried, gazing fixedly on his costly blade; "let these
tears wash from thee the Russian blood and the Tartar _naphtha_! [30]
When and how can I reward you, with my service, for liberty and life?"

[Footnote 30: The Tartars, to preserve their weapons, and to produce a
black colour on them, smoke the metal, and then rub it with naphtha.]

I am sure, my dear Maria, that you will keep me, for this, one
of your sweetest kisses. Ever, ever, when feeling or acting
generously, I console myself with the thought, "My Maria will
praise me for this!" But when is this to happen, my darling?
Fate is but a stepmother to us. Your mourning is prolonged, and
the commander-in-chief has decidedly refused me leave of absence;
nor am I much displeased, annoying as it is: my regiment is in
a bad state of discipline--indeed, as bad as can be imagined;
besides, I am charged with the construction of new barracks and
the colonization of a married company. If I were absent for a month,
every thing would go wrong. If I remain, what a sacrifice of my heart!

Here we have been at Derbend three days. Ammalat lives with me: he
is silent, sad, and savage; but his fear is interesting, nevertheless.
He speaks Russian very well, and I have commenced teaching him to read
and write. His intelligence is unusually great. In time, I hope to
make him a most charming Tartar. (_The conclusion of the letter has
no reference to our story_.)

Fragment of another letter from Colonel Verhoffsky to his _fiancee_,
written six months after the preceding.

From Derbend to Smolensk.

Your favourite Ammalat, my dearest Maria, will soon be quite
Russianized. The Tartar Beks, in general, think the first step of
civilization consists in the use of the unlawful wine and pork. I,
on the contrary, have begun by re-educating the mind of Ammalat. I
show him, I prove to him, what is bad in the customs of his nation,
and what is good in those of ours; I explain to him universal and
eternal truths. I read with him, I accustom him to write, and I
remark with pleasure that he takes the deepest interest in
composition. I may say, indeed, that he is passionately fond of it;
for with him every wish, every desire, every caprice, is a
passion--an ardent and impatient passion. It is difficult for a
European to imagine, and still more difficult to understand, the
inflammability of the unruly, or rather unbridled, passions of an
Asiatic, with whom the will alone has been, since childhood, the
only limit to his desires. Our passions are like domestic animals; or,
if they are wild beasts, they are tamed, and taught to dance upon
the rope of the "conveniences," with a ring through their nostrils
and their claws cut: in the East they are free as the lion and the

It is curious to observe, on the countenance of Ammalat, the blush
with which his features are covered at the least contradiction; the
fire with which he is filled at any dispute; but as soon as he finds
that he is in the wrong, he turns pale, and seems ready to weep.
"I am in the wrong," says he; "pardon me: takhsirumdam ghitch,
(blot out my fault;) forget that I am wrong, and that you have
pardoned me." He has a good heart, but a heart always ready to be
set on fire, either by a ray of the sun or by a spark of hell.
Nature has gifted him with all that is necessary to render him a man,
as well in his moral as physical constitution; but national
prejudices, and the want of education, have done all that is
possible to disfigure and to corrupt these natural qualities. His
mind is a mixture of all sorts of inconsistencies, of the most
absurd ideas, and of the soundest thoughts: sometimes he seizes
instantly abstract propositions when they are presented to him in a
simple form, and again he will obstinately oppose the plainest and
most evident truths: because the former are quite new to him, and
the latter are obscured by previous prejudices and impressions. I
begin to fancy that it is easier to build a new edifice than to
reconstruct an old one.

But how happens it that Ammalat is melancholy and absent? He makes
great progress in every thing that does not require an attentive and
continuous reflection, and a gradual development; but when the
matter involves remote consequences, his mind resembles a short
fire-arm, which sends its charge quickly, direct, and strongly, but
not to any distance. Is this a defect of his mind? or is it that his
attention is entirely occupied with something else? ... For a man of
twenty-three, however, it is easy to imagine the cause. Sometimes he
appears to be listening attentively to what I am telling him; but
when I ask for his answer, he seems all abroad. Sometimes I find the
tears flowing from his eyes: I address him--he neither hears nor
sees me. Last night he was restless in his sleep, and I heard the
word "seltanet--seltanet," (power, power,) frequently escape him. Is
it possible that the love of power can so torment a young heart? No,
no! another passion agitates, troubles the soul of Ammalat. Is it
for me to doubt of the symptoms of love's divine disease? He is in
love--he is passionately in love; but with whom? Oh, I will know!
Friendship is as curious as a woman.


"It is only by a naval power," says Gibbon, "that the reduction of
Yemen can be successfully attempted"--a remark, by the way, which
more than one of the ancients had made before him. All the
comparatively fertile districts in the south of Arabia, in fact, are
even more completely insulated by the deserts and barren mountains of
the interior on one side, than by the sea on the other--inasmuch as
easier access would be gained by an invader, even by the dangerous
and difficult navigation of the Red Sea, than by a march through a
region where the means of subsistence do not exist, and where the
Bedoweens, by choking or concealing the wells, might in a moment cut
off even the scanty supply of water which the country affords. This
mode of passive resistance was well understood and practised by them
as early as the time of AElius Gallus, the first Roman general who
conceived the hope of rifling the virgin treasures popularly
believed to be buried in the inaccessible hoards of the princes of
Arabia, whose realms were long looked upon--perhaps on the principle
of _omne ignotum pro magnifico_--as a sort of indefinite and
mysterious El Dorado. [31]

[Footnote 31: "Intactis opulentior thesauris Arabum."
--_Horat. Od_. iii. 24. Pliny (_Hist. Nat_. vi. 32) more soberly
endeavours to prove the enormous accumulation of wealth which must
have taken place in Arabia, from the constant influx of the precious
metals for the purchase of their spices and other commodities, while
they bought none of the productions of other countries in return.]

These golden dreams speedily vanished as the country became more
extensively known: and though the Arab tribes of the desert between
Syria and the Euphrates acknowledged a nominal subjection to Rome,
the intercourse of the Imperial City with Yemen, or Arabia Felix,
was confined to the trade which was carried on over the Red Sea from
Egypt, and which became the channel through which not only the
spices of Arabia, but the rich products of India, and even the slaves
[32] and ivory of Eastern Africa, were supplied to the markets of
Italy. At the present day, almost the whole of the south coast of
Arabia fronting the Indian Ocean, nearly from the head of the Persian
Gulf to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, as well as the eastern coast of
Africa, from Cape Guardafui to the entrance of the Mozambique Channel
a seaboard approaching 4000 miles in length--is more or less subject
to the Sultan of Muscat, [33] a prince whose power is almost wholly
maritime, and whose dominions nowhere extend more than thirty or forty
miles inland: while our own recent acquisition of Aden, a detached point
with which our communication can be maintained only by restraining
the command of the sea, has for the first time given an European
power (excepting the Turks, whose possessions in Arabia always
depended on Egypt) a _locus standi_ on the shores of Yemen.

[Footnote 32: This part of Africa is noticed by Arrian as famous for
the excellent quality of the slaves brought from [Greek: ta doulicha
chreissota],and it still retains its pre-eminence. The tribes in
this quarter are far superior both in personal appearance and
intellect to the negroes of Guinea.]

[Footnote 33: We have seen it somewhere stated that the Sultan has
also attempted, by means of his navy, to exercise authority on the
shores of Beloochistan; which would bring him into contact with our
own outposts at Soumeeani, &c., near the mouth of the Indus.]

The process by which we obtained this footing in Arabia was strictly
in accordance with the maxims of policy adopted by the then rulers
of British India, and which they were at the same time engaged in
carrying out, on a far more extended scale, in Affghanistan. In both
cases--perhaps from a benevolent anxiety to accommodate our
diplomacy to the primitive ideas of those with whom we had to deal--

"the good old rule
Sufficeth them, the simple plan
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can"--

was assumed as the basis of our proceedings: and though the brilliant
success which for a time attended our philanthropic exertions in the
cause of good order and civilization beyond the Indus, so completely
threw into the shade the minor glories of Aden, that this latter
achievement attracted scarcely any public attention at the time of
its occurrence, its merits are quite sufficient to entitle it to a
more detailed notice than it has hitherto received in the pages of
Maga. Nor can a more opportune juncture be found than the present,
when the late events in Cabul have apparently had a marvellous
effect in opening the eyes of our statesmen, both in India and
England, to the moral and political delinquency of the system we
have so long pursued--of taking the previous owner's consent for
granted, whenever it suited our views to possess ourselves of a
fortress, island, or tract of territory, belonging to any nation not
sufficiently civilized to have had representatives at the Congress
of Vienna. Whether our repentance is to be carried the length of
universal restitution, remains to be seen; if so, it is to be hoped
that the circumstances of the capture of Aden will be duly borne in
mind. But before we proceed to detail the steps by which the British
colours came to be hoisted at this remote angle of Arabia, it will
be well to give some account of the place itself and its previous
history; since we suspect that the majority of newspaper politicians,
unless the intelligence of its capture chanced to catch their eye in
the columns of the _Times_, are to this day ignorant that such a
fortress is numbered among the possessions of the British crown.

The harbour of Aden, then, lies on the south coast of Yemen, as
nearly as possible in 12 45' N. latitude, and 45 10' E. longitude;
somewhat more than 100 miles east of Cape Bab-el-Mandeb, at the
entrance of the Red Sea; and about 150 miles by sea, or 120 by land,
from Mokha, [34] the nearest port within the Straits. The town was built
on the eastern side of a high rocky peninsula, about four miles in
length from E. to W., by two miles and a half N. and S.--which was
probably, at no very remote period, an island, but is now joined to
the mainland by a long low sandy isthmus, [35] on each side of which,
to the east and west, a harbour is formed between the peninsula and
the mainland. The East Bay, immediately opposite the town, though
of comparatively small extent, is protected by the rocky islet of
Seerah, rising seaward to the height of from 400 to 600 feet, and
affords excellent anchorage at all times, except during the north-east
monsoon: but the Western or Black Bay, completely landlocked and
sheltered in great part of its extent by the high ground of its
peninsula, (which rises to an elevation of nearly 1800 feet,) runs up
inland a distance of seven miles from the headland of Jibel-Hassan,
(which protects its mouth on the west,) to the junction of the isthmus
with the main, and presents at all times a secure and magnificent
harbour, four miles wide at the entrance, and perfectly free from
rocks, shoals, and all impediments to ingress or egress. Such are the
natural advantages of Aden: and "whoever"--says Wellsted--"might have
been the founder, the site was happily selected, and well calculated
by its imposing appearance not only to display the splendour of its
edifices, but also, uniting strength with ornament, to sustain the
character which it subsequently bore, as the port and bulwark of
Arabia Felix."

[Footnote 35: This isthmus is said by Lieutenant Wellsted to be "about
200 yards in breadth:" perhaps a misprint for 1200, as a writer in the
_United Service Journal_, May 1840, calls it 1350 yards; and,
according to the plan in the papers laid before Parliament, it would
appear to be rather more than half a mile at the narrowest part, where
it is crossed by the Turkish wall.]

From the almost impregnable strength of its situation, and the
excellence of its harbour, which affords almost the only secure
shelter for shipping near the junction of the Red Sea and the Indian
Ocean, Aden has been, both in ancient and modern times, a place of
note and importance as a central point for the commerce carried on
with the East by way of Egypt. It was known to the ancients as the
Arabian emporium, and Abulfeda, in the fourteenth century, describes
it, in his Geography, as "a city on the sea-shore, within the
district of Abiyan; with a safe and capacious port, much frequented
by ships from India and China, and by merchants and men of
wealth, not only from those countries, but from Abyssinia, the
Hedjaz, &c.;" adding, however, "that it is dry and burnt up by the
sun, and so totally destitute of pasture and water, that one of the
gates is named Bab-el-Sakiyyin, or _Gate of the Water-carriers_,
for fresh water must be brought from a distance." In somewhat
later times, when the Portuguese began to effect settlements on the
coasts of Guzerat and Malabar, and to attack the Mohammedan commerce
in the Indian Seas, the port of Aden (when, with the rest of Yemen,
then paid a nominal allegiance to the Egyptian monarchy) became the
principal rendezvous for the armaments equipped by the Circassian
Sultans of Cairo in the Red Sea, in aid of their Moslem brethren,
then oppressed by those whom the Sheikh Zein-ed-deen emphatically
denounces as "a race of unclean Frank interlopers--may the curse of
Allah rest upon them and all infidels!" It was, in consequence, more
than once attacked by the famous Alboquerque, (who, in 1513, lost
2000 men before it,) and his successor Lope Soarez, but the
Portuguese never succeeded in occupying it; and the Mamluke empire
was overthrown, in 1517, by the arms of the Ottoman Sultan, Selim I.
The new masters of Egypt, however, speedily adopted the policy of
the rulers whom they had supplanted; and not contented with the
limited _suzerainte_ over the Arab chiefs of Yemen, exercised by the
Circassian monarchs, determined on bringing that country under the
direct control of the Porte, as a _point d'appui_ for the operations
to be undertaken in the Indian Ocean. With this view, the eunuch,
Soliman-Pasha, who was sent in command of a formidible squadron from
Suez, in 1538, to attempt the recapture of Dui, [36] in Guzerat, from
the Portuguese, received instructions to make himself in the first place
master of Aden, to the possession of which the Turks might reasonable
lay claim as a dependency of their newly-acquired realm of Egypt; the
seizure, however, was effected by means of base treachery. The prince,
Sheikh-Amer, of the race of the Beni-Teher, was summoned on board
the admiral's galley, and accepted the invitation without suspicion;
but he was instantly placed in confinement, and shortly afterwards
publicly hanged at the yard-arm; while the Pasha, landing his troops,
took possession of Aden in the name of Soliman the Magnificent. It
was not, however, till 1568, that the final reduction of Yemen was
accomplished, when Aden and other towns, which had fallen into the
hands of an Arab chief named Moutaher, were recaptured by a powerful
army sent from Egypt; the whole province was formally divided into
sandjaks or districts, and the seat of the beglerbeg, or supreme
pasha, fixed at Sana.

[Footnote 36: The warfare of the Ottomans in India is a curious
episode in their history, which has attracted but little notice from
European writers. The Soliman-Pasha above mentioned (called by
the Indian historians Soliman-Khan _Roomi_, or the Turk, and by the
Portuguese Solimanus Peloponnesiacus) bore a distinguished part
in those affairs; but this expedition against Diu was the last in
which he was engaged. The kingdom of Guzerat was, at that time, in
great confusion after the death of its king, Bahadur Shah, who had
been treacherously killed in an affray with the Portuguese in 1536;
and it would appear probable that the Turks, if they had succeeded
against Diu, meditated taking possession of the country.]

The domination of the Turks in Yemen did not continue much more than
sixty years after this latter epoch; the constant revolts of the
Arab tribes, and the feuds of the Turkish military chiefs, whose
distance from the seat of government placed them beyond the control
of the Porte, combined in rendering it an unprofitable possession.
The Indian trade, moreover, was permanently diverted to the route by
the Cape; and any political schemes which the Porte might at one time
have entertained in regard to India, had been extinguished by the
reunion, under the Mogul sway, of the various shattered sovereignties
of Hindostan. In 1633, [37] the Turkish troops were finally withdrawn
from the province, which then fell under the rule of the still existing
dynasty of the Imams of Sana, who claim descent from Mohammed. But the
ruins even now remaining of the fortifications and publick works
constructed in Aden by the Ottomans during their tenure of the place,
are on a scale which not only proves how fully they were aware of the
importance of the position, but gives a high idea of the energy with
which their resources were administered during the palmy days of their
power, when such vast labour and outlay were expended on the security
of an isolated stronghold at the furthest extremity of their empire.
The defences of the town, even in their present state, are the most
striking evidence now existing of the science and skill of the Turkish
engineers in former times; and, when they were entire, Aden must have
been another Gibraltar. "The lines taken for the works," says a late
observer, "evince great judgment, a good flanking fire being every
where obtained; no one place which could possibly admit of being
fortified has been omitted, and we could not do better than tread in
the steps of our predecessors. The profile is tremendous." A supply
of water (of which the peninsula had been wholly destitute) was
secured, not only by constructing numerous tanks within the walls,
and by boring numerous wells through the solid rock to a depth of
upwards of 200 feet, [38] but by carrying an aqueduct into the
town from a spring eight miles in the country, the reservoir at the
end of which was defended by a redoubt mounted with artillery. The
outposts were not less carefully strengthened than the body of the
place--a rampart with bastions (called, in the reports of the
garrison, _the Turkish Wall_) was carried along some high ground on
the isthmus from sea to sea, to guard against an attack on the land
side--the lofty rocky islet of Seerah, immediately off the town, was
covered with watchtowers and batteries--and several of those
enormous guns, with the effect of which the English became
practically acquainted at the passage of the Dardanelles in 1807,
were mounted on the summit of the precipices, to command the seaward
approach; and, when Lieutenant Wellsted was at Aden, those huge
pieces of ordnance was lying neglected on the beach; and he asked
Sultan Mahassan why he did not cut them up for the sake of the metal,
which is said to contain a considerable intermixture of silver;
"but he replied, with more feeling than could have been anticipated,
that he was unwilling to deprive Aden of the only remaining sign of
its former greatness and strength." Several of them have been sent
to England since the capture of the place, measuring from fifteen to
eighteen and a half feet in length; they are covered with ornaments
and inscriptions, stating them to have been cast in the reign of
"Soliman the son of Selim-Khan," (Soliman the Magnificent.)

[Footnote 37: Captain Haines, in the "Report upon Aden," appended to the
Parliamentary papers published on the subject, erroneously places this
even in 1730, the year in or about which, according to Niebuhr, the
Sheikh of Aden made himself independent of Sana.]

[Footnote 38: "No part of the coast of Arabia is celebrated for the
goodness of its water, with the single exception of Aden. The wells
there are 300 in number, cut mostly though the rock, ... and the tanks
were found in good order, coated inside and out with excellant chunam,
(stucco,) and merely requiring cleaning out to be again serviceable."]

At the time of its evacuation by the Turks, Aden is said,
notwithstanding the decay of its Indian trade, to have contained from
20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants; and the lofty minarets which, a few
years since, still towered above the ruins of the mosques to which
they had formerly been attached, as well as the extensive
burying-grounds, in which the turbaned headstones peculiar to the
Turks are even yet conspicuous, bear testimony, not less than the
extent and magnitude of the ruinous fortifications, to the
population and splendour of the town under the Ottomans.--(See
WELLSTED'S _Arabia_, vol. ii, chap. 19.) From the time, however, of
its return into the hands of its former owners, its decline was rapid.
Niebuhr, who visited it in the latter part of the last century, says,
that it had but little trade, as its Sheikh [39] (who had long since
shaken off his dependence on the Iman of Sana) was not on good terms
with his neighbors; and, though Sir Home Popham concluded a commercial
treaty with the uncle and predecessor of the present Sultan Mahassan,
no steps appear to have been taken in consequence of this arrangement.

[Footnote 39: The town would appear to have passed into the hands of
another tribe since Niebuhr's time, as he gives the Sheikh the surname
of _El-Foddeli_ (Futhali,) the present chief being of the Abdalli

In 1835, according to Wellsted, the inhabitants of this once
flourishing emporium did not exceed 800, the only industrious class
among whom were the Jews, who numbered from 250 to 300. The
remainder were "the descendants of Arabs, Sumaulis," (a tribe of the
African coast,) "and the offspring of slaves," who dwelt in wretched
huts, or rather tents, on the ruins of the former city. "Not more
than twenty families are now engaged in mercantile pursuits, the
rest gaining a miserable existence either by supplying the Hadj
boats with wood and water, or by fishing." The chief, Sultan Mahassan,
did not even reside in Aden, but in a town called Lahedj, about
eighteen miles distant, where he kept the treasures which his uncle,
who was a brave and politic ruler, had succeeded in amassing. He
reputation for wealth, however, and the inadequacy of his means for
defending it, drew on him the hostility of the more warlike tribes
in the vicinity; and in 1836 Aden was sacked by the Futhalis,
who not only carried off booty to the value of 30,000 dollars,
(principally the property of the Banians and the Sumauli merchants in
the port,) but compelled the Sultan to agree to an annual payment of
360 dollars; while two other tribes, the Yaffaees and the Houshibees,
took the opportunity to exhort from him a tribute of half that amount.
There can be no doubt but that, if the Arabs had been left to
themselves, this state of things would have ended in all the
contending parties being speedily swallowed up in the dominions of
Mohammed Ali, Pasha of Egypt; who, under pretence of re-asserting
the ancient rights of the Porte to the sovereignty of Yemen, had
already occupied Mokha and Taaz, and was waging war with the tribes
in the neighbouring coffee country, whom he had exasperated by the
treacherous murder of Sheikh Hussein, one of their chiefs, who,
having been inveigled by the Egyptian commander into a personal
conference, was shot dead, like the Mamlukes at Cairo, in the tent of
audience. Aden, in the natural course of things, would have been the
next step; but an unforeseen intervention deprived him of his prey.

Since the establishment of the overland communication with India
through Egypt, and the steam navigation of the Red Sea, the want had
been sensibly felt of an intermediate station between Suez and Bombay,
which might serve both as a coal depot, and, in case of necessity,
as a harbour of shelter. The position of Aden, almost exactly halfway,
would naturally have pointed it out as the sought-for haven, even
had its harbour been less admirably adapted than it is, from its
facility of entrance and depth of water close to the shore, for
steamers to run straight in, receive their fuel and water from the
quay, and proceed on their voyage without loss of time; while the
roadstead of Mokha, [40] the only other station which could possibly be
made available for the purpose, is at all times open and insecure,
and in certain points of the wind, particularly when it blows from
the south through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, communication with
the shore is absolutely impracticable. It was clear, therefore, that
the proposed depot, if carried into effect at all, must be fixed at
Aden; and there can be little doubt that its occupation was contemplated
by the Indian government from the time of the visit of the surveying
ships to the Red Sea. A pretext was now all that was sought for, and
this was not long wanted. It was reported to the Bombay Administration
in October 1836, by Captain Haines, (then in command of the Palinurus
at Makullah) that great insecurity to navigation prevailed on both the
African and Indian shores, at the entrance of the Red Sea; and one
particular instance was adduced, in which the crew of a Muscat vessel,
wrecked on the coast near Aden, were subjected to such inordinate
extortion by Sultan Mahassan, that "the master, in anger or despair,
burned his vessel. The Bombay government could only give general
instructions, that in case of any outrage being offered to a vessel
under British colours, redress should be peremptorily demanded. But
long before these instructions were issued, and, indeed, before the
intelligence which elicited them had reached Bombay, a case, such as
they had supposed, had really occurred."--(_Corresponderce relating to
Aden_, printed in May 1839, by order of the House of Commons,
No. 49, p. 38.)

[Footnote 40: "A vessel will lie" (at Mokha) "with a whole chain on end,
topgallant masts struck, and yards braced by, without being able to
communicate with the shore; while at the same time in Aden harbour she
will lie within a few yards of the shore, in perfectly smooth water,
with the bight of her chain cable scarcely taught."--CAPTAIN HAINES'S

An Indian ship called the Derya-Dowlut, (Fortune of the Sea,) the
property of a lady of the family of the Nawab of Madras, but sailing
under British colours, was wrecked on the coast near Aden, February
20, 1837, when on her voyage from Calcutta to Jiddah, with a cargo
valued at two lacs of rupees, (L.20,000.) It would appear, from the
depositions of the survivors, that the loss of the ship was
intentional on the part of the supercargo and _nakhoda_, (or
sailing-master,) the latter of whom, however, was drowned, with
several of the crew, in attempting to get on shore in the boat. The
passengers--who had been denied help both by the officers who had
deserted them, and by the Arabs who crowded down to the beach--with
difficulty reached the land, when they were stripped, plundered, and
ill-treated by the Bedoweens, but at last escaped without any
personal injury, and made their way in miserable plight to Aden,
where they were relieved and clothed by a Sheikh, the hereditary
guardian of the tomb of Sheikh Idris, the guardian saint of the town.
The stranded ship, meanwhile, after being cleared of as much of her
cargo and stores as could be saved, was burned by direction of the
supercargo, who shortly afterwards took his departure to Jiddah,
carrying with him one-third of the rescued property, and leaving the
remainder as a waif to the Sultan of Aden. After he was gone, the
Sultan made an offer to the agent [41] of the ship to restore the
goods which had fallen to his share on a payment of ten per cent for
salvage; but this was declined, on the ground that after such a length
of time "the things on board must have been almost all lost; that he
did not require them, nor had he money to pay for them." The Sultan,
however, still refused to allow him to leave Aden till he had given
him written acquittance of all claims on account of the ship; a document
was accordingly signed, as he says, under compulsion, to the effect that
he made no claim against the Sultan, but with a full reservation of his
claim for redress from the supercargo, who had wrecked the ship and
embezzled the goods saved from her. The agent and several of the crew,
after undergoing great hardships, at last reached Mokha, and laid their
complaint before the commanders of the Company's cruisers Coote and
Palinurus. The latter vessel, under the command of Captain Haines,
immediately repaired to Aden to demand redress for the injuries thus
inflicted on English subjects, while a formal report of the case was made
to the Government at Bombay. The Sultan at first attempted to deny that
he possessed any of the goods in question, and afterwards alleged
that they had been given to him voluntarily by the supercargo; but
finding all his subterfuges unavailing, he at length gave up
merchandize and stores to the amount of nearly 8000 dollars, besides
a bond at a year's date for 4191 dollars more, in satisfaction for
the goods which had been previously sold or made away with, as well
as for the insults offered to the passengers.

[Footnote 41: This person, Syud Nooradeen, had been captain of the
vessel at the outset of the voyage; but had been deposed from the
responsible command by an order purporting to come from the merchant
who had freighted the ship, but which is now said to have been forged
by the supercargo.]

Here, in ordinary cases, the matter might have rested; for though
the conduct of this Arab chief would certainly have been
indefensible in a civilized country, the worst charge that can be
considered as fairly proved against him is that of being a receiver
of stolen goods, as the price of his connivance at the appropriation
of the rest by the supercargo--since with the wreck of the ship,
whether premeditated or not, he had certainly nothing to do--and the
outrages committed by the wild Bedoweens on the beach can scarcely be
laid to his charge. A far more atrocious insult to the British flag in
1826, when a brig from the Mauritius had been piratically seized at
Berbera, (a port on the African coast, just outside the Straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb,) and part of her crew murdered, had been expiated by
the submission of the offenders, and the repayment of the value of the
plunder by yearly instalments, (see WELLSTED'S _Arabia_, vol. ii.
chap. 18;)--whereas, in the present case, restitution, however reluctant,
had been prompt and complete. But so eager were the authorities in India
to possess themselves of the place on any terms, that even while the
above-mentioned negotiation was pending, a minute was drawn up
(Sept. 28) by the Governor of Bombay, and transmitted to the
Governor-general at Calcutta, in which, after stating that "the
establishment of a monthly communication by steam with the Red Sea,
and the formation of a flotilla of armed steamers, renders it
_absolutely necessary_ that we should have a station of our own on
the coast of Arabia, as we already have on the Persian Gulf"
--alluding to the seizure of the island of Karrack--and noticing
"the insult which has been offered to the British flag by the Sultan
of Aden," requests permission "to take possession of Cape Aden." [42]
The Governor-general, however, in his reply, (Oct. 16,) appears scarcely
of opinion that so strong a measure is warranted by the provocation,
and suggests "that satisfaction should, in the first instance, be
demanded of the Sultan. If it be granted, some _amicable arrangement_
may be made with him for the occupation of this port as a depot for
coals, and harbour for shelter. If it be refused, then further measures
may be considered." [43]

[Footnote 42: Correspondence, No. 16.]

[Footnote 43: Ibid. No. 19.]

But notwithstanding the qualified terms of the Governor-general's
reply, it appears to have been regarded by the Bombay government as
equivalent to a full permission [44] for the prosecution of the
object on which they had fixed their views: for by the despatch
of Captain Haines from Aden, (dated Jan. 20, 1838,) we find that no
sooner had he "completed the first duty on which he was sent,"
(the recovery of the cargo of the Derya-Dowlet,) than he addressed a
letter (Jan. 11) to the Sultan, to the effect that "he was empowered
by Government to form a treaty with the Sultan for the purchase of
Aden, with the land and points surrounding it," &c. &c.--that he felt
assured that the Sultan "would, in his wisdom, readily foresee the
advantages which would accrue to his country from having such an
intimate connecting link with the British"--and enclosing a rough
draft of the terms on which it was proposed that the transfer should
be effected. The Sultan appears to have been considerably _taken
aback_ at this unexpected proposition, which, it should be observed,
was not put forward as part of the atonement required for the affair
of the Derya-Dowlut--as for this, (in the words of Captain Haines,)
"satisfaction has been given by you, and our friendship is as before."
A lengthened correspondence ensued, at the rate of a letter or two
daily, till the end of January--in which the Sultan, with all the
tortuous tact of an Asiatic, endeavoured, without expressly pledging
himself on the main point, to stipulate in the first instance for
assistance, in the shape of artillery and ammunition, against the
hostile tribes in the neighbourhood, and other advantages for
himself and his family, particularly for the retention of their
jurisdiction over the _Arab_ residents in Aden: and he at last
quitted Aden for Lahedj, without absolutely concluding any thing,
but having authorized a merchant of the former place, named
Reshid-Ebn-Abdallah, to act as his agent.

[Footnote 44: "The Government of India did not, indeed, in express
words authorize us to negotiate with the Sultan for a cession to us
of the post and harbour: but they desired us to obtain the occupation
of the port as a coal depot, and that of the harbour as a place of
shelter. These words far exceed the mere establishment of a coal depot
under the auspices of the Sultan, and in fact, could not in any
practical sense, or to any beneficial purpose, be fulfilled, except
by our obtaining the occupation of that port and harbour as a matter
not of sufferance but of right."--_Minute by the Governor of Bombay_,
No. 49.]

Still every thing appeared in a fair way for adjustment; the
principal difficulty remaining to be settled being the annual sum to
be paid as an equivalent for the port-dues of Aden. The Sultan's
commissioner at first rated this source of revenue at the exorbitant
sum of 50,000 dollars!--but it was at last agreed that it should be
commuted for a yearly stipend of 8708, a mode of payment preferred
by the Sultan to the receipt of a gross sum, lest the rapacity of
his neighbours should be excited against him by so sudden an
accession of wealth: while the amount thus fixed was believed even
to exceed the actual amount of the customs. The Sultan meanwhile,
though evading the formal execution of the deed of transfer,
constantly wrote from Lahedj that the English were at liberty to
begin building in Aden as soon as they pleased--adding on more than
one occasion--"if the Turks or any other people should come and take
away the whole country by strength from me, the blame will not rest
on my shoulders."

On the 27th, however, Sultan Hamed, the eldest son and heir-apparent
of Sultan Mahassan, arrived at Aden from Lahedj, accompanied by a
_synd_ or descendant of the prophet, named Hussein, who was
represented as having come as a witness to the transaction; and
Captain Haines was invited on shore to meet them. While he was
preparing, however, to repair to the place of meeting, he received a
private intimation through the merchant already mentioned,
Reshid-Ebn-Abdallih, to the effect that the Arab chiefs had
determined on seizing his person at the interview, in order to
possess themselves of the papers connected with the proposed
transfer of Aden, (to which Sultan Hamed had from the first been
strongly opposed,) and in particular of the bond for 4191 dollars
which had been given in satisfaction for the balance of the goods in
the Derya-Dowlut. How far this imputed treachery was really meditated,
there can be, of course, no means of precisely ascertaining; and the
minute of the governor of Bombay (_Correspondence_, No. 49,) seems
to consider it doubtful; [45] but Captain Haines acted as if fully
convinced of the correctness of the intelligence which he had
received; and after reproaching Sultan Hamed with his intended
perfidy, returned first to Mokha, and afterwards (in February) to
Bombay, carrying with him the letter in which the old Sultan was
alleged to have given his consent to the cession, but leaving the
recovered goods at Aden in charge of a Banyan--a tolerably strong
proof, by the way, that the Sultan, notwithstanding the bad faith
laid to his charge, was not considered likely to appropriate them

[Footnote 45: "I am not, however, disposed to treat the matter as
one of much importance. We have no knowledge of it but from report,
and all concerned in it will solemnly deny the truth of the

The unsuccessful issue of this mission pretty clearly proved, that
notwithstanding the dread of the British power entertained by the
Abdalli chiefs, their reluctance to part with their town would not
be easily overcome by peaceable means: while the Governor-general
(then busily engaged at Simla in forwarding the preparations for the
ill-fated invasion of Affghanistan) still declined, in despite of a
renewed application from Bombay to give any special sanction to
ulterior measures--"a question on which"--in the words of the
despatch--"her Majesty's Government is rather called upon to
pronounce judgment, than the supreme government of India." The
authorities at Bombay, however, were not to be thus diverted from
the attainment of their favourite object; and in a despatch of
September 7, 1838, to the Secret Committee, (_Corresp_. No. 59,)
they announce that, "on reconsideration, they have resolved to adopt
immediate measures for attempting to obtain peaceable possession of
Aden, without waiting for the previous instructions of the
Governor-general of India:" but "as the steamer Berenice will leave
Bombay on the 8th inst.," (_the next day_,) "we have not time to
enter into a detail of the reasons which have induced us to come to
the above resolution." A notification similar to the above had been
forwarded two days previously to Lord Auckland at Simla; and a
laconic reply was received (Oct. 4) from Sir William Macnaghten,
simply to the effect that "his lordship was glad to find that, at
the present crisis of our affairs, the governor (of Bombay) in
council has resolved to resort to no other than peaceful means
for the attainment of the object in view."

In the latter part of October, accordingly, Captain Haines once more
reached Aden in the Coote, with a small party of Bombay sepoys on
board as his escort; but the aspect of affairs was by no means
favourable. The old Sultan Mahassan, worn out with age and
infirmities, had resigned the management of affairs almost entirely
to his fiery son Hamed, who, encouraged not only by his success in
baffling the former attempt, but by the smallness of the force which
had accompanied the British commissioner, [46] openly set him at
defiance, declaring that he himself, and not his father, was now the
Sultan of the Bedoweens: that his father was but an imbecile old man;
and that any promise which might have been extorted from him could
not be regarded as of any avail: and, in short, that the place
should not be given up upon any terms. In pursuance of this
denunciation, all supplies, even of wood and water, were refused to
the ship; the Banyan in charge of the Derya-Dowlut's cargo was
prohibited from giving up the goods to the English; and though the
interchange of letters was kept up as briskly as before, the
resolution of Sultan Hamed was not to be shaken by this torrent of
diplomacy: and he constantly adhered to his first expressed
position--"I wish much to be friends, and that amity was between us,
but you must not speak or write about the land of Aden again." The
English agent, however, persisted in speaking of the transfer as
already legally concluded, and out of the power of Hamed to
repudiate or annul: while, in order to give greater stringency to
his remonstrances, he gave orders for the detention of the
date-boats and other vessels which arrived off Aden, hoping to
starve the Sultan into submission, by thus at once stopping his
provisions, and cutting off his receipt of port dues. The blockade
does not seem to have been very effectual: and an overture from the
Futhali chief to aid with his tribe in an attack on the Abdallis, was
of course declined by Captain Haines.

[Footnote 46: "Their first exclamation was, 'Are the English so poor
that they can only afford to send one vessel? and is she only come to
talk? Why did they not send her before? Had they sent their men and
vessels, we would have given up; but until they do, they shall never
have the place.'"--CAPTAIN HAINES'S _Despatch_, Nov. 6, (No. 61.)]

The apparently interminable cross fire of protocols [47] (in which both
Captain Haines and his employers appear to have luxuriated to a degree
which would have gladdened the heart of Lord Palmerston himself) was now,
however, on the point of being brought to a close. On the 20th of
November, one of the Coote's boats, while engaged in overhauling an
Arab vessel near the shore, was fired at by the Bedoweens on the beach,
and hostilities were carried on during several days, but with little
damage on either side. In most cases, it would have been considered
that blockading a port, and intercepting its supplies of provisions
constituted a sufficiently legitimate ground of warfare to justify
these reprisals: but Captain Haines, it appears, thought otherwise,
as he stigmatizes it as "a shameful and cowardly attack," and
becomes urgent with the Bombay government for a reinforcement which
might enable him to assume offensive operations with effect. Her

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