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270

CATCHING A TARTAR.

pipes in their mouths, some singing, some recounting the day's adventures; for the morning had passed by no means so peacefully as the evening. Among others, our old host had a story for us. The night before, he had been keeping watch in a wood near the Russian pickets; a man of seventy makes but an indifferent sentinel, and it seems he had gradually dropped into a comfortable doze. From this he was aroused, somewhat unpleasantly, by two Cossacks, who were unceremoniously preparing to make a prize of the old gentleman, when he soon convinced them it was a Tartar they had caught; the expedition with which he had whipped out his toasting-iron, and laid about him with it, inducing them to decamp as nimbly as they could.

In this manner had the evening stolen pleasantly and imperceptibly away; the twilight had faded, and been replaced by the stars, in the full brilliancy of an eastern midnight, before we thought of retiring to rest. When at length I had sought. my couch, all my invocations to the drowsy god were unavailing. A conspiracy between the feas within and the frogs and jackals without had effectually banished him from my pillow. To escape at least from one of these plagues, I ordered my bed to be transported out of doors, and to be laid under the projecting eaves of the guest-house. My endeavours to sleep, however, were not a bit

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more successful; and I am inclined to think there were moral as well as physical impediments to them. A light yet streamed from the window of the cot where Mr. Bell was then profiting by the tranquillity of the midnight hour to write to his friends in England; whilst I, with the waywardness and indolence which a lazy correspondent will find it easier to understand than account for, lay thinking of those whom I should have been writing to, and thus allowing a feeling of remorse to mingle with the sentiments so beautifully expressed by Moore

“Oft in the stilly night,

Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light

Of other days around me.” The visions of home and of England were blending strangely with the wild and romantic scene in which they were conjured up; for, vivid as they were, they could not so entirely absorb my contemplations but that they were occasionally diverted to the fireflies dancing in the shadow of the tall trees, or to the dusky forms of the warriors stretched beneath them in their shaggy capotes, or to the hideous concert before mentioned, or to the brilliant chorus of nightingales, or to the discontented growling of the mastiffs, which the presence of so many intruders rendered restless.

But my reveries were destined to be inter

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rupted somewhat rudely. The loud clamour of human voices mingled suddenly with the other noises, and presently the court-yard was a scene of indescribable confusion. The Russians are upon us, I thought; and my first impulse was to spring up and seize my weapons. My supposition was confirmed by the low, stifled cries, Turkish and Circassian, that now rose on every side of me. “ Giaour geldi! Giaour geldi !" (the Gaiour! the Gaiour!) and I rushed into the guest house, where I had left my friend.

The sounds which I had imagined to proceed from many voices proved to be all the performance of my Greek dragoman, speaking his four languages at once; he was, moreover, violently flourishing his drawn scimitar before the bewildered Mr. Bell, who, out of all the words he was uttering, could only make out the Italian one-femina, whence it appeared there was a lady in the case. In the meanwhile, the hubbub without had by no means diminished; the report of a rifle rang loud and clear in the court-yard; it was answered by another-and another—and another, each fainter than the previous one. These signals shewed that if the Russians had, contrary to custom, ventured upon a night attack, the Circassians were ready for them, and they would, probably, prove the losers by it. Our apartment was now filled with warriors, armed to the teeth, their wild-looking

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faces betraying excitement and eager curiosity, but no alarm. We at length obtained an explanation.

The affair that had occasioned all the tumult, and on that account ridiculous enough, was still to me of rather serious import. I found that the handmaiden'with which I had been provided by my Hadji had suddenly made her escape. Demetry, who had succeeded the old rogue in the charge of all the goods, including the fugitive piece, had suspected the foul play to which I have alluded, and had been consequently upon his guard, having made his bed at the very threshold of the lady's apartment. His vigilance had, however, not been proof against his weariness, and having fallen into a nap, which he protested did not last ten minutes, he found, on awaking, and looking into the harem, that the bird had flown.' Seven thousand piastres out of his stock had vanished in a twinkling—a loss which the young merchant, both enraged and mortified, swore he would not put up with. .

The matter requiring investigation, we now proceeded to the court-yard. Everything there was still in an uproar; the barking of dogs, vociferation of men, and screaming of women, were truly appalling; while the torches of pinewood, fitting about in various directions, cast a red and flickering light over the homestead and surrounding thickets,

274

HADJI IN TROUBLE.

(in which a search and pursuit had already commenced,) and enabled us to make out, though somewhat indistinctly, what was going forward. In one part of the yard our enthusiastic friend the gigantic Tongouse was extorting a confession of his villany from the Hadji; he had pinned the old rogue

into a corner; with one hand he clutched his beard, and held his drawn cama to his throat with the other. But the most singular and attractive part of the scene was the women, who, huddled in a heap, with their hair dishevelled, and in a dishabille affording a somewhat liberal display of their charms, were exclaiming and gesticulating all at once in a way that seemed perfectly irresistible.

They had been accused, I was told, of being accessary to the flight of the bondwoman, and they had adopted this usual, though not very logical, method of the fair sex in general to establish their innocence. There were some of the spectators, however, whom all their protestations by no means served to convince, and among these incredulous individuals was our old konag, Shamuz, who smoked his pipe very deliberately, and said nothing, except a word in my ear, to the effect that the affair was all right, and my property would be forthcoming immediately. How this was to happen I did not very well understand, particularly as

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