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The History of Caliph Vathek by William Beckford

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"O gentle white dove, as thou soar'st through the air,
Vouchsafe one kind glance on the mate of thy love;
Melodious Philomel, I am thy rose;
Warble some couplet to ravish my heart!"

The sultanas and their slaves, stimulated by these pleasantries,
persevered at the swing with such unremitted assiduity, that at
length the cord which had secured it snapped suddenly asunder, and
Bababalouk fell floundering like a turtle to the bottom of the
bath. This accident occasioned a universal shout; twelve little
doors, till now unobserved, flew open at once, and the ladies in an
instant made their escape, after throwing all the towels on his
head, and putting out the lights that remained.

The deplorable animal, in water to the chin, overwhelmed with
darkness, and unable to extricate himself from the wrap that
embarrassed him, was still doomed to hear for his further
consolation the fresh bursts of merriment his disaster occasioned.
He bustled, but in vain, to get from the bath, for the margin was
become so slippery with the oil spilt in breaking the lamps, that
at every effort he slid back with a plunge, which resounded aloud
through the hollow of the dome. These cursed peals of laughter at
every relapse were redoubled; and he, who thought the place
infested rather by devils than women, resolved to cease groping,
and abide in the bath, where he amused himself with soliloquies,
interspersed with imprecations, of which his malicious neighbours
reclining on down suffered not an accent to escape. In this
delectable plight the morning surprised him. The Caliph, wondering
at his absence, had caused him to be everywhere sought for. At
last he was drawn forth, almost smothered from the wisp of linen,
and wet even to the marrow. Limping and chattering his teeth, he
appeared before his master, who inquired what was the matter, and
how he came soused in so strange a pickle.

"And why did you enter this cursed lodge?" answered Bababalouk,
gruffly. "Ought a monarch like you to visit with his harem the
abode of a grey-bearded Emir, who knows nothing of life? And with
what gracious damsels doth the place, too, abound! Fancy to
yourself how they have soaked me like a burnt crust, and made me
dance like a jack-pudding the live-long night through, on their
damnable swing! What an excellent lesson for your sultanas to
follow, into whom I have instilled such reserve and decorum!"

Vathek, comprehending not a syllable of all this invective, obliged
him to relate minutely the transaction; but instead of sympathising
with the miserable sufferer, he laughed immoderately at the device
of the swing, and the figure of Bababalouk mounting upon it. The
stung eunuch could scarcely preserve the semblance of respect.

"Ay, laugh, my lord! laugh," said he; "but I wish this Nouronihar
would play some trick on you; she is too wicked to spare even
majesty itself."

Those words made for the present but a slight impression on the
Caliph; but they not long after recurred to his mind.

This conversation was cut short by Fakreddin, who came to request
that Vathek would join in the prayers and ablutions to be
solemnised on a spacious meadow, watered by innumerable streams.
The Caliph found the waters refreshing, but the prayers abominably
irksome; he diverted himself, however, with the multitude of
Calenders, Santons, and Dervises, who were continually coming and
going, but especially with the Brahmins, Fakirs, and other
enthusiasts, who had travelled from the heart of India, and halted
on their way with the Emir. These latter had, each of them, some
mummery peculiar to himself. One dragged a huge chain wherever he
went, another an ouranoutang, whilst a third was furnished with
scourges, and all performed to a charm; some clambered up trees,
holding one foot in the air; others poised themselves over a fire,
and without mercy filliped their noses. There were some amongst
them that cherished vermin, which were not ungrateful in requiting
their caresses. These rambling fanatics revolted the hearts of the
Dervises, the Calenders, and Santons; however, the vehemence of
their aversion soon subsided, under the hope that the presence of
the Caliph would cure their folly, and convert them to the
Mussulman faith; but, alas! how great was their disappointment! for
Vathek, instead of preaching to them, treated them as buffoons,
bade them present his compliments to Visnow and Ixhora, and
discovered a predilection for a squat old man from the isle of
Serendib, who was more ridiculous than any of the rest.

"Come!" said he, "for the love of your gods bestow a few slaps on
your chops to amuse me."

The old fellow, offended at such an address, began loudly to weep;
but, as he betrayed a villainous drivelling in his tears, the
Caliph turned his back and listened to Bababalouk, who whispered,
whilst he held the umbrella over him: "Your Majesty should be
cautious of this odd assembly which hath been collected I know not
for what. Is it necessary to exhibit such spectacles to a mighty
potentate, with interludes of Talapoins more mangy than dogs? Were
I you, I would command a fire to be kindled, and at once purge the
earth of the Emir, his harem, and all his menagerie."

"Tush, dolt!" answered Vathek; "and know that all this infinitely
charms me; nor shall I leave the meadow till I have visited every
hive of these pious mendicants."

Wherever the Caliph directed his course objects of pity were sure
to swarm round him: the blind, the purblind, smarts without noses,
damsels without ears, each to extol the munificence of Fakreddin,
who, as well as his attendant grey-beards, dealt about gratis
plasters and cataplasms to all that applied. At noon a superb
corps of cripples made its appearance, and soon after advanced by
platoons on the plain, the completest association of invalids that
had ever been embodied till then. The blind went groping with the
blind, the lame limped on together, and the maimed made gestures to
each other with the only arm that remained; the sides of a
considerable waterfall were crowded by the deaf, amongst whom were
some from Pegu with ears uncommonly handsome and large, but were
still less able to hear than the rest; nor were there wanting
others in abundance with humpbacks, wenny necks, and even horns of
an exquisite polish.

The Emir, to aggrandise the solemnity of the festival in honour of
his illustrious visitant, ordered the turf to be spread on all
sides with skins and table-cloths, upon which were served up for
the good Mussulmans pilaus of every line, with other orthodox
dishes; and, by the express order of Vathek, who was shamefully
tolerant, small plates of abominations for regaling the rest. This
prince, on seeing so many mouths put in motion, began to think it
time for employing his own; in spite, therefore, of every
remonstrance from the chief of his eunuchs, he resolved to have a
dinner dressed on the spot. The complaisant Emir immediately gave
orders for a table to be placed in the shade of the willows. The
first service consisted of fish, which they drew from a river
flowing over sands of gold at the foot of a lofty hill; these were
broiled as fast as taken, and served up with a sauce of vinegar,
and small herbs that grow on Mount Sinai; for everything with the
Emir was excellent and pious.

The dessert was not quite set on when the sound of lutes from the
hill was repeated by the echoes of the neighbouring mountains. The
Caliph, with an emotion of pleasure and surprise, had no sooner
raised up his head than a handful of jasmine dropped on his face;
an abundance of tittering succeeded the frolic, and instantly
appeared through the bushes the elegant forms of several young
females, skipping and bounding like roes. The fragrance diffused
from their hair struck the sense of Vathek, who, in an ecstasy,
suspending his repast, said to Bababalouk:

"Are the Peris come down from their spheres? Note her in
particular whose form is so perfect, venturously running on the
brink of the precipice, and turning back her head, as regardless of
nothing but the graceful flow of her robe; with what captivating
impatience doth she contend with the bushes for her veil! could it
be she who threw the jasmine at me?"

"Ay! she it was; and you too would she throw from the top of the
rock," answered Bababalouk; "for that is my good friend Nouronihar,
who so kindly lent me her swing; my dear lord and master," added
he, twisting a twig that hung by the rind from a willow, "let me
correct her for want of respect; the Emir will have no reason to
complain, since (bating what I owe to his piety) he is much to be
censured for keeping a troop of girls on the mountains, whose sharp
air gives their blood too brisk a circulation."

"Peace, blasphemer!" said the Caliph; "speak not thus of her who
over her mountains leads my heart a willing captive; contrive
rather that my eyes may be fixed upon hers, that I may respire her
sweet breath, as she bounds panting along these delightful wilds!"
On saying these words, Vathek extended his arms towards the hill,
and directing his eyes with an anxiety unknown to him before,
endeavoured to keep within view the object that enthralled his
soul; but her course was as difficult to follow as the flight of
one of those beautiful blue butterflies of Cashmere, which are at
once so volatile and rare.

The Caliph, not satisfied with seeing, wished also to hear
Nouronihar, and eagerly turned to catch the sound of her voice; at
last he distinguished her whispering to one of her companions
behind the thicket from whence she had thrown the jasmine: "A
Caliph, it must be owned, is a fine thing to see, but my little
Gulchenrouz is much more amiable; one lock of his hair is of more
value to me than the richest embroidery of the Indies; I had rather
that his teeth should mischievously press my finger than the
richest ring of the imperial treasure. Where have you left him,
Sutlememe? and why is he now not here?"

The agitated Caliph still wished to hear more, but she immediately
retired, with all her attendants; the fond monarch pursued her with
his eyes till she was gone out of sight, and then continued like a
bewildered and benighted traveller, from whom the clouds had
obscured the constellation that guided his way; the curtain of
night seemed dropped before him; everything appeared discoloured;
the falling waters filled his soul with dejection, and his tears
trickled down the jasmines he had caught from Nouronihar, and
placed in his inflamed bosom; he snatched up a shining pebble, to
remind him of the scene where he felt the first tumults of love.
Two hours were elapsed, and evening drew on before he could resolve
to depart from the place; he often, but in vain, attempted to go; a
soft languor enervated the powers of his mind; extending himself on
the brink of the stream, he turned his eyes towards the blue
summits of the mountain, and exclaimed: "What concealest thou
behind thee? what is passing in thy solitudes? Whither is she
gone? O Heaven! perhaps she is now wandering in thy grottos, with
her happy Gulchenrouz!"

In the meantime the damps began to descend, and the Emir,
solicitous for the health of the Caliph, ordered the imperial
litter to be brought. Vathek, absorbed in his reveries, was
imperceptibly removed, and conveyed back to the saloon that
received him the evening before.

But let us leave the Caliph, immersed in his new passion, and
attend Nouronihar beyond the rocks, where she had again joined her
beloved Gulchenrouz. This Gulchenrouz was the son of Ali Hassan,
brother to the Emir, and the most delicate and lovely creature in
the world. Ali Hassan, who had been absent ten years on a voyage
to the unknown seas, committed at his departure this child, the
only survivor of many, to the care and protection of his brother.
Gulchenrouz could write in various characters with precision, and
paint upon vellum the most elegant arabesques that fancy could
devise; his sweet voice accompanied the lute in the most enchanting
manner, and when he sang the loves of Megnoun and Leileh, or some
unfortunate lovers of ancient days, tears insensibly overflowed the
cheeks of his auditors; the verses he composed (for, like Megnoun,
he too was a poet) inspired that unresisting languor so frequently
fatal to the female heart; the women all doted upon him; for though
he had passed his thirteenth year, they still detained him in the
harem; his dancing was light as the gossamer waved by the zephyrs
of spring, but his arms, which twined so gracefully with those of
the young girls in the dance, could neither dart the lance in the
chase, nor curb the steeds that pastured his uncle's domains. The
bow, however, he drew with a certain aim, and would have excelled
his competitors in the race, could he have broken the ties that
bound him to Nouronihar.

The two brothers had mutually engaged their children to each other,
and Nouronihar loved her cousin more than her eyes; both had the
same tastes and amusements, the same long, languishing looks, the
same tresses, the same fair complexions, and when Gulchenrouz
appeared in the dress of his cousin he seemed to be more feminine
than even herself. If at any time he left the harem to visit
Fakreddin, it was with all the bashfulness of a fawn, that
consciously ventures from the lair of its dam; he was however,
wanton enough to mock the solemn old grey-beards to whom he was
subject, though sure to be rated without mercy in return; whenever
this happened he would plunge into the recesses of the harem, and
sobbing, take refuge in the arms of Nouronihar, who loved even his
faults beyond the virtues of others.

It fell out this evening that, after leaving the Caliph in the
meadow, she ran with Gulchenrouz over the green sward of the
mountain that sheltered the vale where Fakreddin had chosen to
reside. The sun was dilated on the edge of the horizon; and the
young people, whose fancies were lively and inventive, imagined
they beheld in the gorgeous clouds of the west the domes of
Shadukiam and Amberabad, where the Peris have fixed their abode.
Nouronihar, sitting on the slope of the hill, supported on her
knees the perfumed head of Gulchenrouz; the air was calm, and no
sound stirred but the voices of other young girls, who were drawing
cool water from the streams below. The unexpected arrival of the
Caliph, and the splendour that marked his appearance, had already
filled with emotion the ardent soul of Nouronihar; her vanity
irresistibly prompted her to pique the prince's attention, and this
she before took good care to effect whilst he picked up the jasmine
she had thrown upon him. But when Gulchenrouz asked after the
flowers he had culled for her bosom, Nouronihar was all in
confusion; she hastily kissed his forehead, arose in a flutter, and
walked with unequal steps on the border of the precipice. Night
advanced, and the pure gold of the setting sun had yielded to a
sanguine red, the glow of which, like the reflection of a burning
furnace, flushed Nouronihar's animated countenance. Gulchenrouz,
alarmed at the agitation of his cousin, said to her with a
supplicating accent:

"Let us be gone; the sky looks portentous, the tamarisks tremble
more than common, and the raw wind chills my very heart; come! let
us be gone; 'tis a melancholy night!"

Then, taking hold of her hand, he drew it towards the path he
besought her to go. Nouronihar unconsciously followed the
attraction, for a thousand strange imaginations occupied her
spirit; she passed the large round of honeysuckles, her favourite
resort, without ever vouchsafing it a glance, yet Gulchenrouz could
not help snatching off a few shoots in his way, though he ran as if
a wild beast were behind.

The young females seeing him approach in such haste, and according
to custom expecting a dance, instantly assembled in a circle, and
took each other by the hand; but Gulchenrouz, coming up out of
breath, fell down at once on the grass. This accident struck with
consternation the whole of this frolicsome party; whilst
Nouronihar, half distracted, and overcome, both by the violence of
her exercise and the tumult of her thoughts, sunk feebly down at
his side, cherished his cold hands in her bosom, and chafed his
temples with a fragrant unguent. At length he came to himself,
and, wrapping up his head in the robe of his cousin, entreated that
she would not return to the harem; he was afraid of being snapped
at by Shaban, his tutor, a wrinkled old eunuch of a surly
disposition; for having interrupted the stated walk of Nouronihar,
he dreaded lest the churl should take it amiss. The whole of this
sprightly group, sitting round upon a mossy knoll, began to
entertain themselves with various pastimes, whilst their
superintendents the eunuchs were gravely conversing at a distance.
The nurse of the Emir's daughter, observing her pupil sit
ruminating with her eyes on the ground, endeavoured to amuse her
with diverting tales, to which Gulchenrouz, who had already
forgotten his inquietudes, listened with a breathless attention; he
laughed, he clapped his hands, and passed a hundred little tricks
on the whole of the company, without omitting the eunuchs, whom he
provoked to run after him, in spite of their age and decrepitude.

During these occurrences the moon arose, the wind subsided, and the
evening became so serene and inviting, that a resolution was taken
to sup on the spot. Sutlememe, who excelled in dressing a salad,
having filled large bowls of porcelain with eggs of small birds,
curds turned with citron juice, slices of cucumber, and the inmost
leaves of delicate herbs, handed it round from one to another, and
gave each their shares in a large spoon of Cocknos. Gulchenrouz,
nestling as usual in the bosom of Nouronihar, pouted out his
vermilion little lips against the offer of Sutlememe, and would
take it only from the hand of his cousin, on whose mouth he hung
like a bee inebriated with the quintessence of flowers. One of the
eunuchs ran to fetch melons, whilst others were employed in
showering down almonds from the branches that overhung this amiable

In the midst of this festive scene there appeared a light on the
top of the highest mountain, which attracted the notice of every
eye; this light was not less bright than the moon when at full, and
might have been taken for her, had it not been that the moon was
already risen. The phenomenon occasioned a general surprise, and
no one could conjecture the cause; it could not be a fire, for the
light was clear and bluish, nor had meteors ever been seen of that
magnitude or splendour. This strange light faded for a moment, and
immediately renewed its brightness; it first appeared motionless at
the foot of the rock, whence it darted in an instant to sparkle in
a thicket of palm-trees; from thence it glided along the torrent,
and at last fixed in a glen that was narrow and dark. The moment
it had taken its direction, Gulchenrouz, whose heart always
trembled at anything sudden or rare, drew Nouronihar by the robe,
and anxiously requested her to return to the harem; the women were
importunate in seconding the entreaty, but the curiosity of the
Emir's daughter prevailed; she not only refused to go back, but
resolved at all hazards to pursue the appearance. Whilst they were
debating what was best to be done, the light shot forth so dazzling
a blaze, that they all fled away shrieking; Nouronihar followed
them a few steps, but, coming to the turn of a little bye-path,
stopped, and went back alone; as she ran with an alertness peculiar
to herself, it was not long before she came to the place where they
had just been supping. The globe of fire now appeared stationary
in the glen, and burned in majestic stillness. Nouronihar,
compressing her hands upon her bosom, hesitated for some moments to
advance; the solitude of her situation was new, the silence of the
night awful, and every object inspired sensations which till then
she never had felt: the affright of Gulchenrouz recurred to her
mind, and she a thousand times turned to go back, but this luminous
appearance was always before her; urged on by an irresistible
impulse, she continued to approach it, in defiance of every
obstacle that opposed her progress.

At length she arrived at the opening of the glen; but, instead of
coming up to the light, she found herself surrounded by darkness,
excepting that at a considerable distance a faint spark glimmered
by fits. She stopped a second time; the sound of water-falls
mingling their murmurs, the hollow rustlings amongst the palm-
branches, and the funereal screams of the birds from their rifted
trunks, all conspired to fill her with terror; she imagined every
moment that she trod on some venomous reptile; all the stories of
malignant Dives and dismal Gouls thronged into her memory; but her
curiosity was, notwithstanding, more predominant than her fears;
she therefore firmly entered a winding track that led towards the
spark, but, being a stranger to the path, she had not gone far till
she began to repent of her rashness.

"Alas!" said she, "that I were but in those secure and illuminated
apartments where my evenings glided on with Gulchenrouz! Dear
child! how would thy heart flutter with terror wert thou wandering
in these wild solitudes like me!" At the close of this apostrophe
she regained her road, and, coming to steps hewn out in the rock,
ascended them undismayed; the light, which was now gradually
enlarging, appeared above her on the summit of the mountain; at
length she distinguished a plaintive and melodious union of voices,
proceeding from a sort of cavern, that resembled the dirges which
are sung over tombs; a sound, likewise, like that which arises from
the filling of baths, at the same time struck her ear; she
continued ascending, and discovered large wax torches in full blaze
planted here and there in the fissures of the rock; this
preparation filled her with fear, whilst the subtle and potent
odour which the torches exhaled caused her to sink almost lifeless
at the entrance of the grot.

Casting her eyes within in this kind of trance, she beheld a large
cistern of gold filled with a water, whose vapour distilled on her
face a dew of the essence of roses; a soft symphony resounded
through the grot; on the sides of the cistern she noticed
appendages of royalty, diadems, and feathers of the heron, all
sparkling with carbuncles; whilst her attention was fixed on this
display of magnificence, the music ceased, and a voice instantly

"For what monarch were these torches kindled, this bath prepared,
and these habiliments, which belong, not only to the sovereigns of
the earth, but even to the Talismanic Powers?"

To which a second voice answered: "They are for the charming
daughter of the Emir Fakreddin."

"What," replied the first, "for that trifler, who consumes her time
with a giddy child, immersed in softness, and who at best can make
but an enervated husband?"

"And can she," rejoined the other voice, "be amused with such empty
trifles, whilst the Caliph, the sovereign of the world, he who is
destined to enjoy the treasures of the pre-adamite Sultans, a
prince six feet high, and whose eyes pervade the inmost soul of a
female, is inflamed with the love of her. No! she will be wise
enough to answer that passion alone that can aggrandise her glory;
no doubt she will, and despise the puppet of her fancy. Then all
the riches this place contains, as well as the carbuncle of
Giamschid, shall be hers."

"You judge right," returned the first voice, "and I haste to
Istakar to prepare the palace of subterranean fire for the
reception of the bridal pair."

The voices ceased, the torches were extinguished, the most entire
darkness succeeded, and Nouronihar, recovering with a start, found
herself reclined on a sofa in the harem of her father. She clapped
her hands, and immediately came together Gulchenrouz and her women,
who, in despair at having lost her, had despatched eunuchs to seek
her in every direction; Shaban appeared with the rest, and began to
reprimand her with an air of consequence:

"Little impertinent," said he, "whence got you false keys? or are
you beloved of some Genius that hath given you a pick-lock? I will
try the extent of your power; come, to your chamber! through the
two skylights; and expect not the company of Gulchenrouz; be
expeditious! I will shut you up in the double tower."

At these menaces Nouronihar indignantly raised her head, opened on
Shaban her black eyes, which, since the important dialogue of the
enchanted grot, were considerably enlarged, and said: "Go, speak
thus to slaves, but learn to reverence her who is born to give
laws, and subject all to her power."

She was proceeding in the same style, but was interrupted by a
sudden exclamation of "The Caliph! The Caliph!" The curtains at
once were thrown open, and the slaves prostrate in double rows,
whilst poor little Gulchenrouz hid himself beneath the elevation of
a sofa. At first appeared a file of black eunuchs, trailing after
them long trains of muslin embroidered with gold, and holding in
their hands censers, which dispensed as they passed the grateful
perfume of the wood of aloes; next marched Bababalouk with a solemn
strut, and tossing his head as not over-pleased at the visit;
Vathek came close after, superbly robed; his gait was unembarrassed
and noble, and his presence would have engaged admiration, though
he had not been the sovereign of the world; he approached
Nouronihar with a throbbing heart, and seemed enraptured at the
full effulgence of her radiant eyes, of which he had before caught
but a few glimpses; but she instantly depressed them, and her
confusion augmented her beauty.

Bababalouk, who was a thorough adept in coincidences of this
nature, and knew that the worst game should be played with the best
face, immediately made a signal for all to retire; and no sooner
did he perceive beneath the sofa the little one's feet, than he
drew him forth without ceremony, set him upon his shoulders, and
lavished on him as he went off a thousand odious caresses;
Gulchenrouz cried out, and resisted till his cheeks became the
colour of the blossom of the pomegranate, and the tears that
started into his eyes shot forth a gleam of indignation; he cast a
significant glance at Nouronihar, which the Caliph noticing, asked:
"Is that then your Gulchenrouz?"

"Sovereign of the world?" answered she, "spare my cousin, whose
innocence and gentleness deserve not your anger."

"Take comfort," said Vathek, with a smile; "he is in good hands.
Bababalouk is fond of children, and never goes without sweetmeats
and comfits."

The daughter of Fakreddin was abashed, and suffered Gulchenrouz to
be borne away without adding a word. The tumult of her bosom
betrayed her confusion; and Vathek, becoming still more
impassioned, gave a loose to his frenzy, which had only not subdued
the last faint strugglings of reluctance, when the Emir, suddenly
bursting in, threw his face upon the ground at the feet of the
Caliph, and said:

"Commander of the Faithful! abase not yourself to the meanness of
your slave."

"No, Emir," replied Vathek; "I raise her to an equality with
myself; I declare her my wife, and the glory of your race shall
extend from one generation to another."

"Alas! my lord," said Fakreddin, as he plucked off the honours of
his beard, "cut short the days of your faithful servant, rather
than force him to depart from his word. Nouronihar, as her hands
evince, is solemnly promised to Gulchenrouz, the son of my brother
Ali Hassan; they are united also in heart, their faith is mutually
plighted, and affiances so sacred cannot be broken."

"What then!" replied the Caliph, bluntly, "would you surrender this
divine beauty to a husband more womanish than herself? and can you
imagine that I will suffer her charms to decay in hands so
inefficient and nerveless? No! she is destined to live out her
life within my embraces: such is my will; retire, and disturb not
the time I devote to the homage of her charms."

The irritated Emir drew forth his sabre, presented it to Vathek,
and stretching out his neck, said in a firm tone of voice: "Strike
your unhappy host, my lord! he has lived long enough, since he hath
seen the Prophet's Vicegerent violate the rites of hospitality."

At his uttering these words Nouronihar, unable to support any
longer the conflict of her passions, sank down in a swoon. Vathek,
both terrified for her life and furious at an opposition to his
will, bade Fakreddin assist his daughter, and withdrew, darting his
terrible look at the unfortunate Emir, who suddenly fell backward,
bathed in a sweat cold as the damp of death.

Gulchenrouz, who had escaped from the hands of Bababalouk, and was
that instant returned, called out for help as loudly as he could,
not having strength to afford it himself. Pale and panting, the
poor child attempted to revive Nouronihar by caresses; and it
happened that the thrilling warmth of his lips restored her to
life. Fakreddin beginning also to recover from the look of the
Caliph, with difficulty tottered to a seat, and after warily
casting round his eye to see if this dangerous prince was gone,
sent for Shaban and Sutlememe, and said to them apart:

"My friends! violent evils require as violent remedies; the Caliph
has brought desolation and horror into my family, and how shall we
resist his power? another of his looks will send me to my grave.
Fetch then that narcotic powder which the Dervish brought me from
Aracan; a dose of it, the effect of which will continue three days,
must be administered to each of these children; the Caliph will
believe them to be dead, for they will have all the appearance of
death; we shall go as if to inter them in the cave of Meimoune, at
the entrance of the great desert of sand, and near the cabin of my
dwarfs. When all the spectators shall be withdrawn, you, Shaban,
and four select eunuchs, shall convey them to the lake, where
provisions shall be ready to support them a month; for one day
allotted to the surprise this event will occasion, five to the
tears, a fortnight to reflection, and the rest to prepare for
renewing his progress, will, according to my calculation, fill up
the whole time that Vathek will tarry, and I shall then be freed
from his intrusion."

"Your plan," said Sutlememe, "is a good one, if it can but be
effected. I have remarked that Nouronihar is well able to support
the glances of the Caliph, and that he is far from being sparing of
them to her; be assured, therefore, notwithstanding her fondness
for Gulchenrouz, she will never remain quiet while she knows him to
be here, unless we can persuade her that both herself and
Gulchenrouz are really dead, and that they were conveyed to those
rocks for a limited season to expiate the little faults of which
their love was the cause; we will add that we killed ourselves in
despair, and that your dwarfs, whom they never yet saw, will preach
to them delectable sermons. I will engage that everything shall
succeed to the bent of your wishes."

"Be it so!" said Fakreddin. "I approve your proposal; let us lose
not a moment to give it effect."

They forthwith hastened to seek for the powder, which, being mixed
in a sherbet, was immediately drank by Gulchenrouz and Nouronihar.
Within the space of an hour both were seized with violent
palpitations, and a general numbness gradually ensued; they arose
from the floor, where they had remained ever since the Caliph's
departure, and, ascending to the sofa, reclined themselves at full
length upon it, clasped in each other's embraces.

"Cherish me, my dear Nouronihar!" said Gulchenrouz; "put thy hand
upon my heart, for it feels as if it were frozen. Alas! thou art
as cold as myself! Hath the Caliph murdered us both with his
terrible look?"

"I am dying!" cried she in a faltering voice; "press me closer; I
am ready to expire!"

"Let us die then together," answered the little Gulchenrouz, whilst
his breast laboured with a convulsive sigh; "let me at least
breathe forth my soul on thy lips!" They spoke no more, and became
as dead.

Immediately the most piercing cries were heard through the harem,
whilst Shaban and Sutlememe personated with great adroitness the
parts of persons in despair. The Emir, who was sufficiently
mortified to be forced into such untoward expedients, and had now
for the first time made a trial of his powder, was under no
necessity of counterfeiting grief. The slaves, who had flocked
together from all quarters, stood motionless at the spectacle
before them; all lights were extinguished save two lamps, which
shed a wan glimmering over the faces of these lovely flowers, that
seemed to be faded in the spring-time of life; funeral vestments
were prepared, their bodies were washed with rose-water, their
beautiful tresses were braided and incensed, and they were wrapped
in simars whiter than alabaster. At the moment that their
attendants were placing two wreaths of their favourite jasmines on
their brows, the Caliph, who had just heard of the tragical
catastrophe, arrived; he looked not less pale and haggard than the
Gouls, that wander at night among graves; forgetful of himself and
every one else, he broke through the midst of the slaves, fell
prostrate at the foot of the sofa, beat his bosom, called himself
"atrocious murderer!" and invoked upon his head a thousand
imprecations; with a trembling hand he raised the veil that covered
the countenance of Nouronihar, and, uttering a loud shriek, fell
lifeless on the floor. The chief of the eunuchs dragged him off
with horrible grimaces, and repeated as he went: "Ay, I foresaw
she would play you some ungracious turn!"

No sooner was the Caliph gone than the Emir commanded biers to be
brought, and forbad that any one should enter the harem. Every
window was fastened, all instruments of music were broken, and the
Imams began to recite their prayers; towards the close of this
melancholy day Vathek sobbed in silence, for they had been forced
to compose with anodynes his convulsions of rage and desperation.

At the dawn of the succeeding morning the wide folding doors of the
palace were set open, and the funeral procession moved forward for
the mountain. The wailful cries of "La Ilah illa Allah!" reached
to the Caliph, who was eager to cicatrise himself and attend the
ceremonial; nor could he have been dissuaded, had not his excessive
weakness disabled him from walking; at the few first steps he fell
on the ground, and his people were obliged to lay him on a bed,
where he remained many days in such a state of insensibility, as
excited compassion in the Emir himself.

When the procession was arrived at the grot of Meimoune, Shaban and
Sutlememe dismissed the whole of the train, excepting the four
confidential eunuchs who were appointed to remain. After resting
some moments near the biers, which had been left in the open air,
they caused them to be carried to the brink of a small lake, whose
banks were overgrown with a hoary moss; this was the great resort
of herons and storks, which preyed continually on little blue
fishes. The dwarfs, instructed by the Emir, soon repaired thither,
and, with the help of the eunuchs, began to construct cabins of
rushes and reeds, a work in which they had admirable skill; a
magazine also was contrived for provisions, with a small oratory
for themselves, and a pyramid of wood neatly piled, to furnish the
necessary fuel, for the air was bleak in the hollows of the

At evening two fires were kindled on the brink of the lake, and the
two lovely bodies, taken from their biers, were carefully deposited
upon a bed of dried leaves within the same cabin. The dwarfs began
to recite the Koran with their clear shrill voices, and Shaban and
Sutlememe stood at some distance, anxiously waiting the effects of
the powder. At length Nouronihar and Gulchenrouz faintly stretched
out their arms, and gradually opening their eyes, began to survey
with looks of increasing amazement every object around them; they
even attempted to rise, but for want of strength fell back again;
Sutlememe on this administered a cordial, which the Emir had taken
care to provide.

Gulchenrouz, thoroughly aroused, sneezed out aloud, and raising
himself with an effort that expressed his surprise, left the cabin,
and inhaled the fresh air with the greatest avidity.

"Yes," said he, "I breathe again! again do I exist! I hear sounds!
I behold a firmament spangled over with stars!"

Nouronihar, catching these beloved accents, extricated herself from
the leaves, and ran to clasp Gulchenrouz to her bosom. The first
objects she remarked were their long simars, their garlands of
flowers, and their naked feet; she hid her face in her hands to
reflect; the vision of the enchanted bath, the despair of her
father, and, more vividly than both, the majestic figure of Vathek
recurred to her memory; she recollected also that herself and
Gulchenrouz had been sick and dying; but all these images
bewildered her mind. Not knowing where she was, she turned her
eyes on all sides, as if to recognise the surrounding scene; this
singular lake, those flames reflected from its glassy surface, the
pale hues of its banks, the romantic cabins, the bulrushes that
sadly waved their drooping heads, the storks whose melancholy cries
blended with the shrill voices of the dwarfs, everything conspired
to persuade them that the Angel of Death had opened the portal of
some other world.

Gulchenrouz on his part, lost in wonder, clung to the neck of his
cousin: he believed himself in the region of phantoms, and was
terrified at the silence she preserved; at length addressing her:

"Speak," said he, "where are we? do you not see those spectres that
are stirring the burning coals? are they Monker and Nakir, come to
throw us into them? does the fatal bridge cross this lake, whose
solemn stillness perhaps conceals from us an abyss, in which for
whole ages we shall be doomed incessantly to sink?"

"No, my children!" said Sutlememe, going towards them, "take
comfort! the exterminating Angel, who conducted our souls hither
after yours, hath assured us that the chastisement of your indolent
and voluptuous life shall be restricted to a certain series of
years, which you must pass in this dreary abode, where the sun is
scarcely visible, and where the soil yields neither fruits nor
flowers. These," continued she, pointing to the dwarfs, "will
provide for our wants, for souls so mundane as ours retain too
strong a tincture of their earthly extraction; instead of meats
your food will be nothing but rice, and your bread shall be
moistened in the fogs that brood over the surface of the lake."

At this desolating prospect the poor children burst into tears, and
prostrated themselves before the dwarfs, who perfectly supported
their characters, and delivered an excellent discourse of a
customary length upon the sacred camel, which after a thousand
years was to convey them to the paradise of the faithful.

The sermon being ended, and ablutions performed, they praised Allah
and the Prophet, supped very indifferently, and retired to their
withered leaves. Nouronihar and her little cousin consoled
themselves on finding that, though dead, they yet lay in one cabin.
Having slept well before, the remainder of the night was spent in
conversation on what had befallen them, and both, from a dread of
apparitions, betook themselves for protection to one another's

In the morning, which was lowering and rainy, the dwarfs mounted
high poles like minarets, and called them to prayers; the whole
congregation, which consisted of Sutlememe, Shaban, the four
eunuchs, and some storks, were already assembled. The two children
came forth from their cabin with a slow and dejected pace; as their
minds were in a tender and melancholy mood, their devotions were
performed with fervour. No sooner were they finished, than
Gulchenrouz demanded of Sutlememe and the rest, "how they happened
to die so opportunely for his cousin and himself."

"We killed ourselves," returned Sutlememe, "in despair at your

On this, said Nouronihar, who, notwithstanding what was past, had
not yet forgotten her vision: "And the Caliph! is he also dead of
his grief? and will he likewise come hither?"

The dwarfs, who were prepared with an answer, most demurely
replied: "Vathek is damned beyond all redemption!"

"I readily believe so," said Gulchenrouz, "and I am glad from my
heart to hear it; for I am convinced it was his horrible look that
sent us hither to listen to sermons and mess upon rice."

One week passed away on the side of the lake unmarked by any
variety; Nouronihar ruminating on the grandeur of which death had
deprived her, and Gulchenrouz applying to prayers and to panniers,
along with the dwarfs, who infinitely pleased him.

Whilst this scene of innocence was exhibiting in the mountains, the
Caliph presented himself to the Emir in a new light; the instant he
recovered the use of his senses, with a voice that made Bababalouk
quake, he thundered out: "Perfidious Giaour! I renounce thee for
ever! it is thou who hast slain my beloved Nouronihar! and I
supplicate the pardon of Mahomet, who would have preserved her to
me had I been more wise; let water be brought to perform my
ablutions, and let the pious Fakreddin be called to offer up his
prayers with mine, and reconcile me to him; afterwards we will go
together and visit the sepulchre of the unfortunate Nouronihar; I
am resolved to become a hermit, and consume the residue of my days
on this mountain, in hope of expiating my crimes."

Nouronihar was not altogether so content, for though she felt a
fondness for Gulchenrouz, who, to augment the attachment, had been
left at full liberty with her, yet she still regarded him as but a
bauble, that bore no competition with the carbuncle of Giamschid.
At times she indulged doubts on the mode of her being, and scarcely
could believe that the dead had all the wants and the whims of the
living. To gain satisfaction, however, on so perplexing a topic,
she arose one morning whilst all were asleep, with a breathless
caution, from the side of Gulchenrouz, and, after having given him
a soft kiss, began to follow the windings of the lake till it
terminated with a rock, whose top was accessible, though lofty;
this she clambered up with considerable toil, and having reached
the summit, set forward in a run, like a doe that unwittingly
follows her hunter; though she skipped along with the alertness of
an antelope, yet at intervals she was forced to desist, and rest
beneath the tamarisks to recover her breath. Whilst she, thus
reclined, was occupied with her little reflections on the
apprehension that she had some knowledge of the place, Vathek, who,
finding himself that morning but ill at ease, had gone forth before
the dawn, presented himself on a sudden to her view; motionless
with surprise, he durst not approach the figure before him, which
lay shrouded up in a simar, extended on the ground, trembling and
pale, but yet lovely to behold. At length Nouronihar, with a
mixture of pleasure and affliction, raising her fine eyes to him,
said: "My lord, are you come hither to eat rice and hear sermons
with me?"

"Beloved phantom!" cried Vathek; "dost thou speak? hast thou the
same graceful form? the same radiant features? art thou palpable
likewise?" and, eagerly embracing her, added: "here are limbs and
a bosom animated with a gentle warmth! what can such a prodigy

Nouronihar with diffidence answered: "You know, my lord, that I
died on the night you honoured me with your visit; my cousin
maintains it was from one of your glances, but I cannot believe
him; for to me they seem not so dreadful. Gulchenrouz died with
me, and we were both brought into a region of desolation, where we
are fed with a wretched diet. If you be dead also, and are come
hither to join us, I pity your lot; for you will be stunned with
the noise of the dwarfs and the storks; besides, it is mortifying
in the extreme that you, as well as myself, should have lost the
treasures of the subterranean palace."

At the mention of the subterranean palace the Caliph suspended his
caresses, to seek from Nouronihar an explanation of her meaning.
She then recapitulated her vision, what immediately followed, and
the history of her pretended death, adding also a description of
the place of expiation from whence she had fled, and all in a
manner that would have extorted his laughter, had not the thoughts
of Vathek been too deeply engaged. No sooner, however, had she
ended, than he again clasped her to his bosom, and said:

"Light of my eyes! the mystery is unravelled; we both are alive!
your father is a cheat, who, for the sake of dividing, hath deluded
us both; and the Giaour, whose design, as far as I can discover, is
that we shall proceed together, seems scarce a whit better; it
shall be some time at least before he find us in his palace of
fire. Your lovely little person in my estimation is far more
precious than all the treasures of the pre-adamite Sultans, and I
wish to possess it at pleasure, and in open day, for many a moon,
before I go to burrow underground like a mole. Forget this little
trifler, Gulchenrouz, and--"

"Ah! my lord!" interposed Nouronihar, "let me entreat that you do
him no evil."

"No, no!" replied Vathek, "I have already bid you forbear to alarm
yourself for him; he has been brought up too much on milk and sugar
to stimulate my jealousy; we will leave him with the dwarfs, who,
by the bye, are my old acquaintances; their company will suit him
far better than yours. As to other matters, I will return no more
to your father's; I want not to have my ears dinned by him and his
dotards with the violation of the rites of hospitality; as if it
were less an honour for you to espouse the sovereign of the world
than a girl dressed up like a boy!"

Nouronihar could find nothing to oppose in a discourse so eloquent;
she only wished the amorous monarch had discovered more ardour for
the carbuncle of Giamschid; but flattered herself it would
gradually increase, and therefore yielded to his will with the most
bewitching submission.

When the Caliph judged it proper, he called for Bababalouk, who was
asleep in the cave of Meimoune, and dreaming that the phantom of
Nouronihar, having mounted him once more on her swing, had just
given him such a jerk, that he one moment soared above the
mountains, and the next sunk into the abyss; starting from his
sleep at the voice of his master, he ran gasping for breath, and
had nearly fallen backward at the sight, as he believed, of the
spectre by whom he had so lately been haunted in his dream.

"Ah, my lord!" cried he, recoiling ten steps, and covering his eyes
with both hands: "do you then perform the office of a Goul? 'tis
true you have dug up the dead, yet hope not to make her your prey;
for after all she hath caused me to suffer, she is even wicked
enough to prey upon you."

"Cease thy folly," said Vathek, "and thou shalt soon be convinced
that it is Nouronihar herself, alive and well, whom I clasp to my
breast; go only and pitch my tents in the neighbouring valley;
there will I fix my abode with this beautiful tulip, whose colours
I soon shall restore; there exert thy best endeavours to procure
whatever can augment the enjoyments of life, till I shall disclose
to thee more of my will."

The news of so unlucky an event soon reached the ears of the Emir,
who abandoned himself to grief and despair, and began, as did all
his old grey-beards, to begrime his visage with ashes. A total
supineness ensued, travellers were no longer entertained, no more
plaisters were spread, and, instead of the charitable activity that
had distinguished this asylum, the whole of its inhabitants
exhibited only faces of a half cubit long, and uttered groans that
accorded with their forlorn situation

Though Fakreddin bewailed his daughter as lost to him for ever, yet
Gulchenrouz was not forgotten. He despatched immediate instruction
to Sutlememe, Shaban, and the dwarfs, enjoining them not to
undeceive the child in respect to his state, but, under some
pretence, to convey him far from the lofty rock at the extremity of
the lake, to a place which he should appoint, as safer from danger;
for he suspected that Vathek intended him evil.

Gulchenrouz in the meanwhile was filled with amazement at not
finding his cousin; nor were the dwarfs at all less surprised; but
Sutlememe, who had more penetration, immediately guessed what had
happened. Gulchenrouz was amused with the delusive hope of once
more embracing Nouronihar in the interior recesses of the
mountains, where the ground, strewed over with orange blossoms and
jasmines, offered beds much more inviting than the withered leaves
in their cabin, where they might accompany with their voices the
sounds of their lutes, and chase butterflies in concert. Sutlememe
was far gone in this sort of description, when one of the four
eunuchs beckoned her aside to apprise her of the arrival of a
messenger from their fraternity, who had explained the secret of
the flight of Nouronihar, and brought the commands of the Emir. A
council with Shaban and the dwarfs was immediately held; their
baggage being stowed in consequence of it, they embarked in a
shallop, and quietly sailed with the little one, who acquiesced in
all their proposals; their voyage proceeded in the same manner till
they came to the place where the lake sinks beneath the hollow of
the rock; but as soon as the bark had entered it, and Gulchenrouz
found himself surrounded with darkness, he was seized with a
dreadful consternation, and incessantly uttered the most piercing
outcries; for he now was persuaded he should actually be damned for
having taken too much freedom in his life-time with his cousin.

But let us return to the Caliph and her who ruled over his heart.
Bababalouk had pitched the tents, and closed up the extremities of
the valley with magnificent screens of India cloth, which were
guarded by Ethiopian slaves with their drawn sabres; to preserve
the verdure of this beautiful enclosure in its natural freshness,
the white eunuchs went continually round it with their red water-
vessels. The waving of fans was heard near the imperial pavilion,
where, by the voluptuous light that glowed through the muslins, the
Caliph enjoyed at full view all the attractions of Nouronihar.
Inebriated with delight, he was all ear to her charming voice,
which accompanied the lute; while she was not less captivated with
his descriptions of Samarah and the tower full of wonders, but
especially with his relation of the adventure of the ball, and the
chasm of the Giaour, with its ebony portal.

In this manner they conversed for a day and a night; they bathed
together in a basin of black marble, which admirably relieved the
fairness of Nouronihar. Bababalouk, whose good graces this beauty
had regained, spared no attention that their repasts might be
served up with the minutest exactness; some exquisite rarity was
ever placed before them; and he sent even to Schiraz for that
fragrant and delicious wine which had been hoarded up in bottles
prior to the birth of Mahomet; he had excavated little ovens in the
rock to bake the nice manchets which were prepared by the hands of
Nouronihar, from whence they had derived a flavour so grateful to
Vathek, that he regarded the ragouts of his other wives as entirely
mawkish; whilst they would have died at the Emir's of chagrin at
finding themselves so neglected, if Fakreddin, notwithstanding his
resentment, had not taken pity upon them.

The Sultana Dilara, who till then had been the favourite, took this
dereliction of the Caliph to heart with a vehemence natural to her
character, for during her continuance in favour she had imbibed
from Vathek many of his extravagant fancies, and was filed with
impatience to behold the superb tombs of Istakar, and the palace of
forty columns; besides, having been brought up amongst the Magi,
she had fondly cherished the idea of the Caliph's devoting himself
to the worship of fire; thus his voluptuous and desultory life with
her rival was to her a double source of affliction. The transient
piety of Vathek had occasioned her some serious alarms, but the
present was an evil of far greater magnitude; she resolved,
therefore, without hesitation, to write to Carathis, and acquaint
her that all things went ill; that they had eaten, slept, and
revelled at an old Emir's, whose sanctity was very formidable, and
that after all, the prospect of possessing the treasures of the
pre-adamite Sultans was no less remote than before. This letter
was entrusted to the care of two wood-men, who were at work on one
of the great forests of the mountains, and, being acquainted with
the shortest cuts, arrived in ten days at Samarah.

The Princess Carathis was engaged at chess with Morakanabad, when
the arrival of these wood-fellers was announced. She, after some
weeks of Vathek's absence, had forsaken the upper regions of her
tower, because everything appeared in confusion among the stars,
whom she consulted relative to the fate of her son. In vain did
she renew her fumigations, and extend herself on the roof to obtain
mystic visions; nothing more could she see in her dreams than
pieces of brocade, nosegays of flowers, and other unmeaning
gewgaws. These disappointments had thrown her into a state of
dejection, which no drug in her power was sufficient to remove; her
only resource was in Morakanabad, who was a good man, and endowed
with a decent share of confidence, yet whilst in her company he
never thought himself on roses.

No person knew aught of Vathek, and a thousand ridiculous stories
were propagated at his expense. The eagerness of Carathis may be
easily guessed at receiving the letter, as well as her rage at
reading the dissolute conduct of her son. "Is it so?" said she;
"either I will perish, or Vathek shall enter the palace of fire.
Let me expire in flames, provided he may reign on the throne of
Soliman!" Having said this, and whirled herself round in a magical
manner, which struck Morakanabad with such terror as caused him to
recoil, she ordered her great camel Alboufaki to be brought, and
the hideous Nerkes with the unrelenting Cafour to attend. "I
require no other retinue," said she to Morakanabad; "I am going on
affairs of emergency; a truce therefore to parade! Take you care
of the people; fleece them well in my absence; for we shall expend
large sums, and one knows not what may betide."

The night was uncommonly dark, and a pestilential blast ravaged the
plain of Catoul that would have deterred any other traveller,
however urgent the call; but Carathis enjoyed most whatever filled
others with dread. Nerkes concurred in opinion with her, and
Cafour had a particular predilection for a pestilence. In the
morning this accomplished caravan, with the wood-fellers who
directed their route, halted on the edge of an extensive marsh,
from whence so noxious a vapour arose as would have destroyed any
animal but Alboufaki, who naturally inhaled these malignant fogs.
The peasants entreated their convoy not to sleep in this place.

"To sleep," cried Carathis; "what an excellent thought! I never
sleep but for visions; and, as to my attendants, their occupations
are too many to close the only eye they each have."

The poor peasants, who were not over-pleased with their party,
remained open-mouthed with surprise.

Carathis alighted, as well as her negresses, and severally
stripping off their outer garments, they all ran in their drawers,
to cull from those spots where the sun shone fiercest the venomous
plants that grew on the marsh; this provision was made for the
family of the Emir, and whoever might retard the expedition to
Istakar. The woodmen were overcome with fear when they beheld
these three horrible phantoms run, and, not much relishing the
company of Alboufaki, stood aghast at the command of Carathis to
set forward, notwithstanding it was noon, and the heat fierce
enough to calcine even rocks. In spite, however, of every
remonstrance, they were forced implicitly to submit.

Alboufaki, who delighted in solitude, constantly snorted whenever
he perceived himself near a habitation; and Carathis, who was apt
to spoil him with indulgence, as constantly turned him aside, so
that the peasants were precluded from procuring subsistence; for
the milch goats and ewes, which Providence had sent towards the
district they traversed, to refresh travellers with their milk, all
fled at the sight of the hideous animal and his strange riders. As
to Carathis, she needed no common aliment, for her invention had
previously furnished her with an opiate to stay her stomach, some
of which she imparted to her mutes.

At the fall of night Alboufaki, making a sudden stop, stamped with
his foot, which to Carathis, who understood his paces, was a
certain indication that she was near the confines of some cemetery.
The moon shed a bright light on the spot, which served to discover
a long wall, with a large door in it standing ajar, and so high
that Alboufaki might easily enter. The miserable guides, who
perceived their end approaching, humbly implored Carathis, as she
had now so good an opportunity, to inter them, and immediately gave
up the ghost. Nerkes and Cafour, whose wit was of a style peculiar
to themselves, were by no means parsimonious of it on the folly of
these poor people, nor could anything have been found more suited
to their tastes than the site of the burying-ground, and the
sepulchres which its precincts contained; there were at least two
thousand of them on the declivity of a hill: some in the form of
pyramids, others like columns, and, in short, the variety of their
shapes was endless. Carathis was too much immersed in her sublime
contemplations to stop at the view, charming as it appeared in her
eyes; pondering the advantages that might accrue from her present
situation, she could not forbear to exclaim:

"So beautiful a cemetery must be haunted by Gouls! and they want
not for intelligence; having heedlessly suffered my guides to
expire, I will apply for directions to them, and as an inducement
will invite them to regale on these fresh corpses."

After this short soliloquy she beckoned to Nerkes and Cafour, and
made signs with her fingers, as much as to say, "Go, knock against
the sides of the tombs, and strike up your delightful warblings,
that are so like to those of the guests whose company I wish to

The negresses, full of joy at the behests of their mistress, and
promising themselves much pleasure from the society of the Gouls,
went with an air of conquest, and began their knockings at the
tombs; as their strokes were repeated a hollow noise was heard in
the earth, the surface hove up into heaps, and the Gouls on all
sides protruded their noses, to inhale the effluvia which the
carcases of the wood-men began to emit.

They assembled before a sarcophagus of white marble, where Carathis
was seated between the bodies of her miserable guides; the princess
received her visitants with distinguished politeness, and, when
supper was ended, proceeded with them to business. Having soon
learnt from them everything she wished to discover, it was her
intention to set forward forthwith on her journey, but her
negresses, who were forming tender connections with the Gouls,
importuned her with all their fingers to wait at least till the
dawn. Carathis, however, being chastity in the abstract, and an
implacable enemy to love and repose, at once rejected their prayer,
mounted Alboufaki, and commanded them to take their seats in a
moment; four days and four nights she continued her route, without
turning to the right hand or left; on the fifth she traversed the
mountains and half-burnt forests, and arrived on the sixth before
the beautiful screens which concealed from all eyes the voluptuous
wanderings of her son.

It was daybreak, and the guards were snoring on their posts in
careless security, when the rough trot of Alboufaki awoke them in
consternation. Imagining that a group of spectres ascended from
the abyss was approaching, they all without ceremony took to their
heels. Vathek was at that instant with Nouronihar in the bath,
hearing tales, and laughing at Bababalouk, who related them; but no
sooner did the outcry of his guards reach him, than he flounced
from the water like a carp, and as soon threw himself back at the
sight of Carathis, who, advancing with her negresses upon
Alboufaki, broke through the muslin awnings and veils of the
pavilion; at this sudden apparition Nouronihar (for she was not at
all times free from remorse) fancied that the moment of celestial
vengeance was come, and clung about the Caliph in amorous

Carathis, still seated on her camel, foamed with indignation at the
spectacle which obtruded itself on her chaste view; she thundered
forth without check or mercy: "Thou double-headed and four-legged
monster! what means all this winding and writhing? art thou not
ashamed to be seen grasping this limber sapling, in preference to
the sceptre of the pre-adamite Sultans? is it then for this paltry
doxy that thou hast violated the conditions in the parchment of our
Giaour? is it on her thou hast lavished thy precious moments? is
this the fruit of the knowledge I have taught thee? is this the end
of thy journey? tear thyself from the arms of this little
simpleton, drown her in the water before me, and instantly follow
my guidance."

In the first ebullition of his fury Vathek resolved to make a
skeleton of Alboufaki, and to stuff the skins of Carathis and her
blacks; but the ideas of the Giaour, the palace of Istakar, the
sabres and the talismans, flashing before his imagination with the
simultaneousness of lightning, he became more moderate, and said to
his mother, in a civil but decisive tone: "Dread lady! you shall
be obeyed, but I will not drown Nouronihar; she is sweeter to me
than a Myrabolan comfit, and is enamoured of carbuncles, especially
that of Giamschid, which hath also been promised to be conferred
upon her; she therefore shall go along with us, for I intend to
repose with her beneath the canopies of Soliman; I can sleep no
more without her."

"Be it so!" replied Carathis, alighting, and at the same time
committing Alboufaki to the charge of her women.

Nouronihar, who had not yet quitted her hold, began to take
courage, and said, with an accent of fondness to the Caliph: "Dear
Sovereign of my soul! I will follow thee, if it be thy will,
beyond the Kaf in the land of the Afrits; I will not hesitate to
climb for thee the nest of the Simurgh, who, this lady excepted, is
the most awful of created existences."

"We have here then," subjoined Carathis, "a girl both of courage
and science!"

Nouronihar had certainly both; but, notwithstanding all her
firmness, she could not help casting back a look of regret upon the
graces of her little Gulchenrouz, and the days of tenderness she
had participated with him; she even dropped a few tears, which
Carathis observed, and inadvertently breathed out with a sigh:
"Alas! my gentle cousin! what will become of him!"

Vathek at this apostrophe knitted up his brows, and Carathis
inquired what it could mean.

"She is preposterously sighing after a stripling with languishing
eyes and soft hair, who loves her," said the Caliph.

"Where is he?" asked Carathis. "I must be acquainted with this
pretty child; for," added she, lowering her voice, "I design before
I depart to regain the favour of the Giaour; there is nothing so
delicious in his estimation as the heart of a delicate boy,
palpitating with the first tumults of love."

Vathek, as he came from the bath, commanded Bababalouk to collect
the women and other movables of his harem, embody his troops, and
hold himself in readiness to march in three days; whilst Carathis
retired alone to a tent, where the Giaour solaced her with
encouraging visions; but at length waking, she found at her feet
Nerkes and Cafour, who informed her by their signs that, having led
Alboufaki to the borders of a lake, to browse on some moss that
looked tolerably venomous, they had discovered certain blue fishes
of the same kind with those in the reservoir on the top of the

"Ah! ha!" said she, "I will go thither to them; these fish are past
doubt of a species that, by a small operation, I can render
oracular; they may tell me where this little Gulchenrouz is, whom I
am bent upon sacrificing." Having thus spoken, she immediately set
out with her swarthy retinue.

It being but seldom that time is lost in the accomplishment of a
wicked enterprise, Carathis and her negresses soon arrived at the
lake, where, after burning the magical drugs with which they were
always provided, they, stripping themselves naked, waded to their
chins, Nerkes and Cafour waving torches around them, and Carathis
pronouncing her barbarous incantations. The fishes with one accord
thrust forth their heads from the water, which was violently
rippled by the flutter of their fins, and, at length finding
themselves constrained by the potency of the charm, they opened
their piteous mouths, and said: "From gills to tail we are yours;
what seek ye to know?"

"Fishes," answered she, "I conjure you, by your glittering scales,
tell me where now is Gulchenrouz?"

"Beyond the rock," replied the shoal in full chorus; "will this
content you? for we do not delight in expanding our mouths."

"It will," returned the princess; "I am not to learn that you like
not long conversations; I will leave you therefore to repose,
though I had other questions to propound." The instant she had
spoken the water became smooth, and the fishes at once disappeared.

Carathis, inflated with the venom of her projects, strode hastily
over the rock, and found the amiable Gulchenrouz asleep in an
arbour, whilst the two dwarfs were watching at his side, and
ruminating their accustomed prayers. These diminutive personages
possessed the gift of divining whenever an enemy to good Mussulmans
approached; thus they anticipated the arrival of Carathis, who,
stopping short, said to herself: "How placidly doth he recline his
lovely little head! how pale and languishing are his looks! it is
just the very child of my wishes!"

The dwarfs interrupted this delectable soliloquy by leaping
instantly upon her, and scratching her face with their utmost zeal.
But Nerkes and Cafour, betaking themselves to the succour of their
mistress, pinched the dwarfs so severely in return, that they both
gave up the ghost, imploring Mahomet to inflict his sorest
vengeance upon this wicked woman and all her household.

At the noise which this strange conflict occasioned in the valley,
Gulchenrouz awoke, and, bewildered with terror, sprung impetuously
upon an old figtree that rose against the acclivity of the rocks;
from thence gained their summits, and ran for two hours without
once looking back. At last, exhausted with fatigue, he fell as if
dead into the arms of a good old Genius, whose fondness for the
company of children had made it his sole occupation to protect
them, and who, whilst performing his wonted rounds through the air,
happening on the cruel Giaour at the instant of his growling in the
horrible chasm, rescued the fifty little victims which the impiety
of Vathek had devoted to his maw; these the Genius brought up in
nests still higher than the clouds, and himself fixed his abode in
a nest more capacious than the rest, from which he had expelled the
possessors that had built it.

These inviolable asylums were defended against the Dives and the
Afrits by waving streamers, on which were inscribed, in characters
of gold that flashed like lightning, the names of Allah and the
Prophet. It was there that Gulchenrouz, who as yet remained
undeceived with respect to his pretended death, thought himself in
the mansions of eternal peace, he admitted without fear the
congratulations of his little friends, who were all assembled in
the nest of the venerable Genius, and vied with each other in
kissing his serene forehead and beautiful eyelids. This he found
to be the state congenial to his soul; remote from the inquietudes
of earth, the impertinence of harems, the brutality of eunuchs, and
the lubricity of women: in this peacable society, his days,
months, and years glided on; nor was he less happy than the rest of
his companions; for the Genius, instead of burthening his pupils
with perishable riches and the vain sciences of the world,
conferred upon them the boon of perpetual childhood.

Carathis, unaccustomed to the loss of her prey, vented a thousand
execrations on her negresses for not seizing the child, instead of
amusing themselves with pinching to death the dwarfs, from which
they could gain no advantage. She returned into the valley
murmuring, and finding that her son was not risen from the arms of
Nouronihar, discharged her ill-humour upon both. The idea,
however, of departing next day for Istakar, and cultivating,
through the good offices of the Giaour, an intimacy with Eblis
himself, at length consoled her chagrin. But Fate had ordained it

In the evening, as Carathis was conversing with Dilara, who,
through her contrivance, had become of the party, and whose taste
resembled her own, Bababalouk came to acquaint her "that the sky
towards Samarah looked of a fiery red, and seemed to portend some
alarming disaster." Immediately, recurring to her astrolabes and
instruments of magic, she took the altitude of the planets, and
discovered by her calculations, to her great mortification, that a
formidable revolt had taken place at Samarah; that Motavakel,
availing himself of the disgust which was inveterate against his
brother, had incited commotions amongst the populace, made himself
master of the palace, and actually invested the great tower, to
which Morakanabad had retired, with a handful of the few that still
remained faithful to Vathek.

"What!" exclaimed she; "must I lose then my tower! my mutes! my
negresses! my mummies! and, worse than all, the laboratory in which
I have spent so many a night, without knowing at least if my hair-
brained son will complete his adventure? No! I will not be the
dupe! Immediately will I speed to support Morakanabad; by my
formidable art the clouds shall sleet hailstones in the faces of
the assailants, and shafts of red-hot iron on their heads; I will
spring mines of serpents and torpedos from beneath them, and we
shall soon see the stand they will make against such an explosion!"

Having thus spoken, Carathis hastened to her son, who was
tranquilly banqueting with Nouronihar in his superb carnation-
coloured tent.

"Glutton that thou art!" cried she, "were it not for me, thou
wouldst soon find thyself the commander only of pies. Thy faithful
subjects have abjured the faith they swore to thee; Motavakel, thy
brother, now reigns on the hill of pied horses, and had I not some
slight resources in the tower, would not be easily persuaded to
abdicate; but, that time may not be lost, I shall only add four
words: Strike tent to-night, set forward, and beware how thou
loiterest again by the way; though thou hast forfeited the
conditions of the parchment, I am not yet without hope; for it
cannot be denied that thou hast violated to admiration the laws of
hospitality, by seducing the daughter of the Emir, after having
partaken of his bread and his salt. Such a conduct cannot but be
delightful to the Giaour; and if on thy march thou canst signalise
thyself by an additional crime, all will still go well, and thou
shalt enter the palace of Soliman in triumph. Adieu! Alboufaki
and my negresses are waiting."

The Caliph had nothing to offer in reply; he wished his mother a
prosperous journey, and ate on till he had finished his supper. At
midnight the camp broke up, amidst the flourishing of trumpets and
other martial instruments; but loud indeed must have been the sound
of the tymbals to overpower the blubbering of the Emir and his
long-beards, who, by an excessive profusion of tears, had so far
exhausted the radical moisture, that their eyes shrivelled up in
their sockets, and their hairs dropped off by the roots.
Nouronihar, to whom such a symphony was painful, did not grieve to
get out of hearing; she accompanied the Caliph in the imperial
litter, where they amused themselves with imagining the splendour
which was soon to surround them. The other women, overcome with
dejection, were dolefully rocked in their cages, whilst Dilara
consoled herself with anticipating the joy of celebrating the rites
of fire on the stately terraces of Istakar.

In four days they reached the spacious valley of Rocnabad. The
season of spring was in all its vigour, and the grotesque branches
of the almond trees in full blossom fantastically chequered the
clear blue sky; the earth, variegated with hyacinths and jonquils,
breathed forth a fragrance which diffused through the soul a divine
repose; myriads of bees, and scarce fewer of Santons, had there
taken up their abode; on the banks of the stream hives and
oratories were alternately ranged, and their neatness and whiteness
were set off by the deep green of the cypresses that spired up
amongst them. These pious personages amused themselves with
cultivating little gardens that abounded with flowers and fruits,
especially musk-melons of the best flavour that Persia could boast;
sometimes dispersed over the meadow, they entertained themselves
with feeding peacocks whiter than snow, and turtles more blue than
the sapphire; in this manner were they occupied when the harbingers
of the imperial procession began to proclaim: "Inhabitants of
Rocnabad! prostrate yourselves on the brink of your pure waters,
and tender your thanksgivings to Heaven, that vouchsafeth to show
you a ray of its glory; for lo! the Commander of the Faithful draws

The poor Santons, filled with holy energy, having bustled to light
up wax torches in their oratories and expand the Koran on their
ebony desks, went forth to meet the Caliph with baskets of
honeycomb, dates, and melons. But, whilst they were advancing in
solemn procession and with measured steps, the horses, camels, and
guards wantoned over their tulips and other flowers, and made a
terrible havoc amongst them. The Santons could not help casting
from one eye a look of pity on the ravages committing around them,
whilst the other was fixed upon the Caliph and heaven. Nouronihar,
enraptured with the scenery of a place which brought back to her
remembrance the pleasing solitudes where her infancy had passed,
entreated Vathek to stop; but he, suspecting that each oratory
might be deemed by the Giaour a distinct habitation, commanded his
pioneers to level them all; the Santons stood motionless with
horror at the barbarous mandate, and at last broke out into
lamentations; but these were uttered with so ill a grace, that
Vathek bade his eunuchs to kick them from his presence. He then
descended from the litter with Nouronihar; they sauntered together
in the meadow, and amused themselves with culling flowers, and
passing a thousand pleasantries on each other. But the bees, who
were staunch Mussulmans, thinking it their duty to revenge the
insult on their dear masters the Santons, assembled so zealously to
do it with effect, that the Caliph and Nouronihar were glad to find
their tents prepared to receive them.

Bababalouk, who in capacity of purveyor had acquitted himself with
applause as to peacocks and turtles, lost no time in consigning
some dozens to the spit, and as many more to be fricasseed. Whilst
they were feasting, laughing, carousing, and blaspheming at
pleasure on the banquet so liberally furnished, the Moullahs, the
Sheiks, the Cadis and Imams of Schiraz (who seemed not to have met
the Santons) arrived, leading by bridles of riband inscribed from
the Koran, a train of asses, which were loaded with the choicest
fruits the country could boast; having presented their offerings to
the Caliph, they petitioned him to honour their city and mosques
with his presence.

"Fancy not," said Vathek, "that you can detain me; your presents I
condescend to accept, but beg you will let me be quiet, for I am
not over-fond of resisting temptation; retire, then; yet, as it is
not decent for personages so reverend to return on foot, and as you
have not the appearance of expert riders, my eunuchs shall tie you
on your asses, with the precaution that your backs be not turned
towards me, for they understand etiquette."

In this deputation were some high-stomached Sheiks, who, taking
Vathek for a fool, scrupled not to speak their opinion. These
Bababalouk girded with double cords, and, having well disciplined
their asses with nettles behind, they all started with a
preternatural alertness, plunging, kicking, and running foul of
each other in the most ludicrous manner imaginable.

Nouronihar and the Caliph mutually contended who should most enjoy
so degrading a sight; they burst out in volleys of laughter to see
the old men and their asses fall into the stream; the leg of one
was fractured, the shoulder of another dislocated, the teeth of a
third dashed out, and the rest suffered still worse.

Two days more, undisturbed by fresh embassies, having been devoted
to the pleasures of Rocnabad, the expedition proceeded, leaving
Shiraz on the right, and verging towards a large plain, from whence
were discernible on the edge of the horizon the dark summits of the
mountains of Istakar.

At this prospect the Caliph and Nouronihar were unable to repress
their transports; they bounded from their litter to the ground, and
broke forth into such wild exclamations, as amazed all within
hearing. Interrogating each other, they shouted, "Are we not
approaching the radiant palace of light? or gardens more delightful
than those of Sheddad?" Infatuated mortals! they thus indulged
delusive conjecture, unable to fathom the decrees of the Most High!

The good Genii, who had not totally relinquished the
superintendence of Vathek, repairing to Mahomet in the seventh
heaven, said: "Merciful Prophet! stretch forth thy propitious arms
towards thy Vicegerent, who is ready to fall irretrievably into the
snare which his enemies, the Dives, have prepared to destroy him;
the Giaour is awaiting his arrival in the abominable palace of
fire, where, if he once set his foot, his perdition will be

Mahomet answered with an air of indignation: He hath too well
deserved to be resigned to himself, but I permit you to try if one
effort more will be effectual to divert him from pursuing his

One of these beneficent Genii, assuming without delay the exterior
of a shepherd, more renowned for his piety than all the Dervises
and Santons of the region, took his station near a flock of white
sheep on the slope of a hill, and began to pour forth from his
flute such airs of pathetic melody as subdued the very soul, and,
awakening remorse, drove far from it every frivolous fancy. At
these energetic sounds the sun hid himself beneath a gloomy cloud,
and the waters of two little lakes, that were naturally clearer
than crystal, became of a colour like blood. The whole of this
superb assembly was involuntarily drawn towards the declivity of
the hill; with downcast eyes they all stood abashed, each
upbraiding himself with the evil he had done; the heart of Dilara
palpitated, and the chief of the eunuchs with a sigh of contrition
implored pardon of the women, whom for his own satisfaction he had
so often tormented.

Vathek and Nouronihar turned pale in their litter, and, regarding
each other with haggard looks, reproached themselves--the one with
a thousand of the blackest crimes, a thousand projects of impious
ambition--the other with the desolation of her family, and the
perdition of the amiable Gulchenrouz. Nouronihar persuaded herself
that she heard in the fatal music the groans of her dying father,
and Vathek the sobs of the fifty children he had sacrificed to the
Giaour. Amidst these complicated pangs of anguish they perceived
themselves impelled towards the shepherd, whose countenance was so
commanding, that Vathek for the first time felt overawed, whilst
Nouronihar concealed her face with her hands.

The music paused, and the Genius, addressing the Caliph, said:
"Deluded Prince! to whom Providence hath confided the care of
innumerable subjects, is it thus that thou fulfillest thy mission?
Thy crimes are already completed, and art thou now hastening
towards thy punishment? Thou knowest that beyond these mountains
Eblis and his accursed Dives hold their infernal empire; and,
seduced by a malignant phantom, thou art proceeding to surrender
thyself to them! This moment is the last of grace allowed thee;
abandon thy atrocious purpose; return; give back Nouronihar to her
father, who still retains a few sparks of life; destroy thy tower
with all its abominations; drive Carathis from thy councils; be
just to thy subjects; respect the ministers of the Prophet;
compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary life; and, instead of
squandering thy days in voluptuous indulgence, lament thy crimes on
the sepulchres of thy ancestors. Thou beholdest the clouds that
obscure the sun; at the instant he recovers his splendour, if thy
heart be not changed, the time of mercy assigned thee will be past
for ever."

Vathek, depressed with fear, was on the point of prostrating
himself at the feet of the shepherd, whom he perceived to be of a
nature superior to man; but, his pride prevailing, he audaciously
lifted his head, and, glancing at him one of his terrible looks,
said: "Whoever thou art, withhold thy useless admonitions; thou
wouldst either delude me, or art thyself deceived. If what I have
done be so criminal as thou pretendest, there remains not for me a
moment of grace; I have traversed a sea of blood to acquire a power
which will make thy equals tremble; deem not that I shall retire
when in view of the port, or that I will relinquish her who is
dearer to me than either my life or thy mercy. Let the sun appear!
let him illumine my career! it matters not where it may end." On
uttering these words, which made even the Genius shudder, Vathek
threw himself into the arms of Nouronihar, and commanded that his
horse should be forced back to the road.

There was no difficulty in obeying these orders, for the attraction
had ceased; the sun shone forth in all his glory, and the shepherd
vanished with a lamentable scream.

The fatal impression of the music of the Genius remained,
notwithstanding, in the heart of Vathek's attendants; they viewed
each other with looks of consternation; at the approach of night
almost all of them escaped, and of this numerous assemblage there
only remained the chief of the eunuchs, some idolatrous slaves,
Dilara and a few other women, who, like herself, were votaries of
the religion of the Magi.

The Caliph, fired with the ambition of prescribing laws to the
Intelligences of Darkness, was but little embarrassed at this
dereliction; the impetuosity of his blood prevented him from
sleeping, nor did he encamp any more as before. Nouronihar, whose
impatience, if possible, exceeded his own, importuned him to hasten
his march, and lavished on him a thousand caresses to beguile all
reflection; she fancied herself already more potent than Balkis,
and pictured to her imagination the Genii falling prostrate at the
foot of her throne. In this manner they advanced by moonlight,
till they came within view of the two towering rocks that form a
kind of portal to the valley, at whose extremity rose the vast
ruins of Istakar. Aloft on the mountain glimmered the fronts of
various royal mausoleums, the horror of which was deepened by the
shadows of night. They passed through two villages almost
deserted, the only inhabitants remaining being a few feeble old
men, who, at the sight of horses and litters, fell upon their knees
and cried out:

"O Heaven! is it then by these phantoms that we have been for six
months tormented? Alas! it was from the terror of these spectres
and the noise beneath the mountains, that our people have fled, and
left us at the mercy of maleficent spirits!"

The Caliph, to whom these complaints were but unpromising auguries,
drove over the bodies of these wretched old men, and at length
arrived at the foot of the terrace of black marble; there he
descended from his litter, handing down Nouronihar; both with
beating hearts stared wildly around them, and expected with an
apprehensive shudder the approach of the Giaour; but nothing as yet
announced his appearance.

A death-like stillness reigned over the mountain and through the
air; the moon dilated on a vast platform the shades of the lofty
columns, which reached from the terrace almost to the clouds; the
gloomy watch-towers, whose numbers could not be counted, were
veiled by no roof, and their capitals, of an architecture unknown
in the records of the earth, served as an asylum for the birds of
darkness, which, alarmed at the approach of such visitants, fled
away croaking.

The chief of the eunuchs, trembling with fear, besought Vathek that
a fire might be kindled.

"No!" replied he, "there is no time left to think of such trifles;
abide where thou art, and expect my commands."

Having thus spoken, he presented his hand to Nouronihar, and,
ascending the steps of a vast staircase, reached the terrace, which
was flagged with squares of marble, and resembled a smooth expanse
of water, upon whose surface not a leaf ever dared to vegetate; on
the right rose the watch-towers, ranged before the ruins of an
immense palace, whose walls were embossed with various figures; in
front stood forth the colossal forms of four creatures, composed of
the leopard and the griffin; and, though but of stone, inspired
emotions of terror; near these were distinguished by the splendour
of the moon, which streamed full on the place, characters like
those on the sabres of the Giaour, that possessed the same virtue
of changing every moment; these, after vacillating for some time,
at last fixed in Arabic letters, and prescribed to the Caliph the
following words:

"Vathek! thou hast violated the conditions of my parchment, and
deservest to be sent back; but, in favour to thy companion, and as
the meed for what thou hast done to obtain it, EBLIS permitteth
that the portal of his palace shall be opened, and the subterranean
fire will receive thee into the number of its adorers."

He scarcely had read these words before the mountain against which
the terrace was reared trembled, and the watch-towers were ready to
topple headlong upon them; the rock yawned, and disclosed within it
a staircase of polished marble that seemed to approach the abyss;
upon each stair were planted two large torches, like those
Nouronihar had seen in her vision, the camphorated vapour ascending
from which gathered into a cloud under the hollow of the vault.

This appearance, instead of terrifying, gave new courage to the
daughter of Fakreddin. Scarcely deigning to bid adieu to the moon
and the firmament, she abandoned without hesitation the pure
atmosphere to plunge into these infernal exhalations. The gait of
those impious personages was haughty and determined; as they
descended by the effulgence of the torches they gazed on each other
with mutual admiration, and both appeared so resplendent, that they
already esteemed themselves spiritual Intelligences; the only
circumstance that perplexed them was their not arriving at the
bottom of the stairs; on hastening their descent with an ardent
impetuosity, they felt their steps accelerated to such a degree,
that they seemed not walking, but falling from a precipice. Their
progress, however, was at length impeded by a vast portal of ebony,
which the Caliph without difficulty recognised; here the Giaour
awaited them with the key in his hand.

"Ye are welcome," said he to them, with a ghastly smile, "in spite
of Mahomet and all his dependants. I will now admit you into that
palace where you have so highly merited a place."

Whilst he was uttering these words he touched the enamelled lock
with his key, and the doors at once expanded, with a noise still
louder than the thunder of mountains, and as suddenly recoiled the
moment they had entered.

The Caliph and Nouronihar beheld each other with amazement, at
finding themselves in a place which, though roofed with a vaulted
ceiling, was so spacious and lofty that at first they took it for
an immeasurable plain. But their eyes at length growing familiar
to the grandeur of the objects at hand, they extended their view to
those at a distance, and discovered rows of columns and arcades,
which gradually diminished till they terminated in a point, radiant
as the sun when he darts his last beams athwart the ocean; the
pavement, strewed over with gold dust and saffron, exhaled so
subtle an odour as almost overpowered them; they, however, went on,
and observed an infinity of censers, in which ambergris and the
wood of aloes were continually burning; between the several columns
were placed tables, each spread with a profusion of viands, and
wines of every species sparkling in vases of crystal. A throng of
Genii and other fantastic spirits of each sex danced in troops, at
the sound of music which issued from beneath.

In the midst of this immense hall a vast multitude was incessantly
passing, who severally kept their right hands on their hearts,
without once regarding anything around them; they had all the livid
paleness of death; their eyes, deep sunk in their sockets,
resembled those phosphoric meteors that glimmer by night in places
of interment. Some stalked slowly on, absorbed in profound
reverie; some, shrieking with agony, ran furiously about, like
tigers wounded with poisoned arrows; whilst others, grinding their
teeth in rage, foamed along, more frantic than the wildest maniac.
They all avoided each other, and, though surrounded by a multitude
that no one could number, each wandered at random, unheedful of the
rest, as if alone on a desert which no foot had trodden.

Vathek and Nouronihar, frozen with terror at a sight so baleful,
demanded of the Giaour what these appearances might mean, and why
these ambulating spectres never withdrew their hands from their

"Perplex not yourselves," replied he bluntly, "with so much; at
once you will soon be acquainted with all; let us haste and present
you to Eblis."

They continued their way through the multitude but, notwithstanding
their confidence at first, they were not sufficiently composed to
examine with attention the various perspectives of halls and of
galleries that opened on the right hand and left, which were all
illuminated by torches and braziers, whose flames rose in pyramids
to the centre of the vault. At length they came to a place where
long curtains, brocaded with crimson and gold, fell from all parts
in striking confusion; here the choirs and dances were heard no
longer; the light which glimmered came from afar.

After some time Vathek and Nouronihar perceived a gleam brightening
through the drapery, and entered a vast tabernacle carpeted with
the skins of leopards; an infinity of elders with streaming beards,
and Afrits in complete armour, had prostrated themselves before the
ascent of a lofty eminence, on the top of which, upon a globe of
fire, sat the formidable Eblis. His person was that of a young
man, whose noble and regular features seemed to have been tarnished
by malignant vapours; in his large eyes appeared both pride and
despair; his flowing hair retained some resemblance to that of an
angel of light; in his hand, which thunder had blasted, he swayed
the iron sceptre that causes the monster Ouranabad, the Afrits, and
all the powers of the abyss to tremble; at his presence the heart
of the Caliph sank within him, and for the first time he fell
prostrate on his face. Nouronihar, however, though greatly
dismayed, could not help admiring the person of Eblis; for she
expected to have seen some stupendous giant. Eblis, with a voice
more mild than might be imagined, but such as transfused through
the soul the deepest melancholy, said:

"Creatures of clay, I receive you into mine empire; ye are numbered
amongst my adorers; enjoy whatever this palace affords; the
treasures of the pre-adamite Sultans, their bickering sabres, and
those talismans that compel the Dives to open the subterranean
expanses of the mountain of Kaf, which communicate with these;
there, insatiable as your curiosity may be, shall you find
sufficient to gratify it; you shall possess the exclusive privilege
of entering the fortress of Aherman, and the halls of Argenk, where
are portrayed all creatures endowed with intelligence, and the
various animals that inhabited the earth prior to the creation of
that contemptible being whom ye denominate the Father of Mankind."

Vathek and Nouronihar, feeling themselves revived and encouraged by
this harangue, eagerly said to the Giaour:

"Bring us instantly to the place which contains these precious

"Come!" answered this wicked Dive, with his malignant grin, "come!
and possess all that my sovereign hath promised, and more."

He then conducted them into a long aisle adjoining the tabernacle,
preceding them with hasty steps, and followed by his disciples with
the utmost alacrity. They reached, at length, a hall of great
extent, and covered with a lofty dome, around which appeared fifty
portals of bronze, secured with as many fastenings of iron; a
funereal gloom prevailed over the whole scene; here, upon two beds
of incorruptible cedar, lay recumbent the fleshless forms of the
pre-adamite kings, who had been monarchs of the whole earth; they
still possessed enough of life to be conscious of their deplorable
condition; their eyes retained a melancholy motion; they regarded
each other with looks of the deepest dejection; each holding his
right hand motionless on his heart; at their feet were inscribed
the events of their several reigns, their power, their pride, and
their crimes; Soliman Raad, Soliman Daki, and Soliman Di Gian Ben
Gian, who, after having chained up the Dives in the dark caverns of
Kaf, became so presumptuous as to doubt of the Supreme Power; all
these maintained great state, though not to be compared with the
eminence of Soliman Ben Daoud.

This king, so renowned for his wisdom, was on the loftiest
elevation, and placed immediately under the dome; he appeared to
possess more animation than the rest; though from time to time he
laboured with profound sighs, and, like his companions, kept his
right hand on his heart; yet his countenance was more composed, and
he seemed to be listening to the sullen roar of a vast cataract,
visible in part through the grated portals: this was the only
sound that intruded on the silence of these doleful mansions. A
range of brazen vases surrounded the elevation.

"Remove the covers from these cabalistic depositories," said the
Giaour to Vathek, "and avail thyself of the talismans, which will
break asunder all these gates of bronze; and not only render thee
master of the treasures contained within them, but also of the
spirits by which they are guarded."

The Caliph, whom this ominous preliminary had entirely
disconcerted, approached the vases with faltering footsteps, and
was ready to sink with terror when he heard the groans of Soliman.
As he proceeded a voice from the livid lips of the Prophet
articulated these words:

"In my life-time I filled a magnificent throne, having on my right
hand twelve thousand seats of gold, where the patriarchs and the
prophets heard my doctrines; on my left the sages and doctors, upon
as many thrones of silver, were present at all my decisions.
Whilst I thus administered justice to innumerable multitudes, the
birds of the air librating over me served as a canopy from the rays
of the sun; my people flourished, and my palace rose to the clouds;
I erected a temple to the Most High, which was the wonder of the
universe; but I basely suffered myself to be seduced by the love of
women, and a curiosity that could not be restrained by sublunary
things; I listened to the counsels of Aherman and the daughter of
Pharaoh, and adored fire and the hosts of heaven; I forsook the
holy city, and commanded the Genii to rear the stupendous palace of
Istakar, and the terrace of the watch-towers, each of which was
consecrated to a star; there for a while I enjoyed myself in the
zenith of glory and pleasure; not only men, but supernatural
existences were subject also to my will. I began to think, as
these unhappy monarchs around had already thought, that the
vengeance of Heaven was asleep; when at once the thunder burst my
structures asunder and precipitated me hither; where, however, I do
not remain, like the other inhabitants, totally destitute of hope,
for an angel of light hath revealed that, in consideration of the
piety of my early youth, my woes shall come to an end when this
cataract shall for ever cease to flow; till then I am in torments,
ineffable torments! an unrelenting fire preys on my heart."

Having uttered this exclamation, Soliman raised his hands towards
heaven, in token of supplication, and the Caliph discerned through
his bosom, which was transparent as crystal, his heart enveloped in
flames. At a sight so full of horror Nouronihar fell back, like
one petrified, into the arms of Vathek, who cried out with a
convulsive sob:

"O Giaour! whither hast thou brought us? Allow us to depart, and I
will relinquish all thou hast promised. O Mahomet! remains there
no more mercy?"

"None! none!" replied the malicious Dive. "Know, miserable prince!
thou art now in the abode of vengeance and despair; thy heart also
will be kindled, like those of the other votaries of Eblis. A few
days are allotted thee previous to this fatal period; employ them
as thou wilt; recline on these heaps of gold; command the Infernal
Potentates; range at thy pleasure through these immense
subterranean domains; no barrier shall be shut against thee; as for
me, I have fulfilled my mission; I now leave thee to thyself." At
these words he vanished.

The Caliph and Nouronihar remained in the most abject affliction;
their tears unable to flow, scarcely could they support themselves.
At length, taking each other despondingly by the hand, they went
faltering from this fatal hall, indifferent which way they turned
their steps; every portal opened at their approach; the Dives fell
prostrate before them; every reservoir of riches was disclosed to
their view; but they no longer felt the incentives of curiosity,
pride, or avarice. With like apathy they heard the chorus of
Genii, and saw the stately banquets prepared to regale them; they
went wandering on from chamber to chamber, hall to hall, and
gallery to gallery, all without bounds or limit, all
distinguishable by the same lowering gloom, all adorned with the
same awful grandeur, all traversed by persons in search of repose
and consolation, but who sought them in vain; for every one carried
within him a heart tormented in flames: shunned by these various
sufferers, who seemed by their looks to be upbraiding the partners
of their guilt, they withdrew from them to wait in direful suspense
the moment which should render them to each other the like objects
of terror.

"What!" exclaimed Nouronihar; "will the time come when I shall
snatch my hand from thine!"

"Ah!" said Vathek; "and shall my eyes ever cease to drink from
thine long draughts of enjoyment! Shall the moments of our
reciprocal ecstasies be reflected on with horror? It was not thou
that broughtest me hither; the principles by which Carathis
perverted my youth have been the sole cause of my perdition!"
Having given vent to these painful expressions, he called to an
Afrit, who was stirring up one of the braziers, and bade him fetch
the Princess Carathis from the palace of Samarah.

After issuing these orders, the Caliph and Nouronihar continued
walking amidst the silent crowd, till they heard voices at the end
of the gallery; presuming them to proceed from some unhappy beings,
who, like themselves, were awaiting their final doom, they followed
the sound, and found it to come from a small square chamber, where
they discovered sitting on sofas five young men of goodly figure,
and a lovely female, who were all holding a melancholy conversation
by the glimmering of a lonely lamp; each had a gloomy and forlorn
air, and two of them were embracing each other with great
tenderness. On seeing the Caliph and the daughter of Fakreddin
enter, they arose, saluted, and gave them place; then he who
appeared the most considerable of the group addressed himself thus
to Vathek:

"Strangers! who doubtless are in the same state of suspense with
ourselves, as you do not yet bear your hands on your hearts, if you
are come hither to pass the interval allotted previous to the
infliction of our common punishment, condescend to relate the
adventures that have brought you to this fatal place, and we in
return will acquaint you with ours, which deserve but too well to
be heard; we will trace back our crimes to their source, though we
are not permitted to repent; this is the only employment suited to
wretches like us!"

The Caliph and Nouronihar assented to the proposal, and Vathek
began, not without tears and lamentations, a sincere recital of
every circumstance that had passed. When the afflicting narrative
was closed, the young man entered on his own. Each person
proceeded in order, and when the fourth prince had reached the
midst of his adventures, a sudden noise interrupted him, which
caused the vault to tremble and to open.

Immediately a cloud descended, which gradually dissipating,
discovered Carathis on the back of an Afrit, who grievously
complained of his burden. She, instantly springing to the ground,
advanced towards her son, and said:

"What dost thou here in this little square chamber? As the Dives
are become subject to thy beck, I expected to have found thee on
the throne of the pre-adamite kings."

"Execrable woman!" answered the Caliph; "cursed be the day thou
gavest me birth! go, follow this Afrit; let him conduct thee to the
hall of the Prophet Soliman, there thou wilt learn to what these
palaces are destined, and how much I ought to abhor the impious
knowledge thou hast taught me."

"The height of power to which thou art arrived has certainly turned
thy brain," answered Carathis; "but I ask no more than permission
to show my respect for the Prophet. It is, however, proper thou
shouldest know, that (as the Afrit has informed me neither of us
shall return to Samarah) I requested his permission to arrange my
affairs, and he politely consented; availing myself, therefore, of
the few moments allowed me, I set fire to the tower, and consumed
in it the mutes, negresses, and serpents which have rendered me so
much good service; nor should I have been less kind to Morakanabad,
had he not prevented me by deserting at last to thy brother. As
for Bababalouk, who had the folly to return to Samarah, and all the
good brotherhood to provide husbands for thy wives, I undoubtedly
would have put them to the torture, could I but have allowed them
the time; being, however, in a hurry, I only hung him after having
caught him in a snare with thy wives, whilst them I buried alive by
the help of my negresses, who thus spent their last moments greatly
to their satisfaction. With respect to Dilara, who ever stood high
in my favour, she hath evinced the greatness of her mind by fixing
herself near in the service of one of the Magi, and I think will
soon be our own."

Vathek, too much cast down to express the indignation excited by
such a discourse, ordered the Afrit to remove Carathis from his
presence, and continued immersed in thought, which his companion
durst not disturb.

Carathis, however, eagerly entered the dome of Soliman, and,
without regarding in the least the groans of the Prophet,
undauntedly removed the covers of the vases, and violently seized
on the talismans; then, with a voice more loud than had hitherto
been heard within these mansions, she compelled the Dives to
disclose to her the most secret treasures, the most profound
stores, which the Afrit himself had not seen; she passed by rapid
descents, known only to Eblis and his most favoured potentates, and
thus penetrated the very entrails of the earth, where breathes the
Sansar, or icy wind of death; nothing appalled her dauntless soul;
she perceived, however, in all the inmates who bore their hands on
their hearts a little singularity, not much to her taste. As she
was emerging from one of the abysses, Eblis stood forth to her
view; but, notwithstanding he displayed the full effulgence of his
infernal majesty, she preserved her countenance unaltered, and even
paid her compliments with considerable firmness.

This superb monarch thus answered: "Princess, whose knowledge and
whose crimes have merited a conspicuous rank in my empire, thou
dost well to employ the leisure that remains; for the flames and
torments, which are ready to seize on thy heart, will not fail to
provide thee with full employment." He said this, and was lost in
the curtains of his tabernacle.

Carathis paused for a moment with surprise; but, resolved to follow
the advice of Eblis, she assembled all the choirs of Genii, and all
the Dives, to pay her homage; thus marched she in triumph through a
vapour of perfumes, amidst the acclamations of all the malignant
spirits, with most of whom she had formed a previous acquaintance;
she even attempted to dethrone one of the Solimans for the purpose
of usurping his place, when a voice, proceeding from the abyss of
Death, proclaimed, "All is accomplished!" Instantaneously the
haughty forehead of the intrepid princess was corrugated with
agony; she uttered a tremendous yell, and fixed, no more to be
withdrawn, her right hand upon her heart, which was become a
receptacle of eternal fire.

In this delirium, forgetting all ambitious projects and her thirst
for that knowledge which should ever be hidden from mortals, she
overturned the offerings of the Genii, and, having execrated the
hour she was begotten and the womb that had borne her, glanced off
in a whirl that rendered her invisible, and continued to revolve
without intermission.

At almost the same instant the same voice announced to the Caliph,
Nouronihar, the five princes, and the princess, the awful and
irrevocable decree. Their hearts immediately took fire, and they
at once lost the most precious of the gifts of Heaven--Hope. These
unhappy beings recoiled with looks of the most furious distraction;
Vathek beheld in the eyes of Nouronihar nothing but rage and
vengeance, nor could she discern aught in his but aversion and
despair. The two princes who were friends, and till that moment
had preserved their attachment, shrank back, gnashing their teeth
with mutual and unchangeable hatred. Kalilah and his sister made
reciprocal gestures of imprecation, whilst the two other princes
testified their horror for each other by the most ghastly
convulsions, and screams that could not be smothered. All
severally plunged themselves into the accursed multitude, there to
wander in an eternity of unabating anguish.

Such was, and such should be, the punishment of unrestrained
passions and atrocious actions! Such is, and such should be, the
chastisement of blind ambition, that would transgress those bounds
which the Creator hath prescribed to human knowledge; and, by
aiming at discoveries reserved for pure Intelligence, acquire that
infatuated pride, which perceives not that the condition appointed
to man is to be ignorant and humble.

Thus the Caliph Vathek, who, for the sake of empty pomp and
forbidden power, had sullied himself with a thousand crimes, became
a prey to grief without end, and remorse without mitigation; whilst
the humble and despised Gulchenrouz passed whole ages in
undisturbed tranquillity, and the pure happiness of childhood.

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