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TCHOROOK OGLU TONGOUSE,
in his prime had produced its natural effects on the ladies of the Caucasus, and he had more claims on his heart than even the Mahomedan dispensation, indulgent as it is, could allow him to do justice to. The consequence was, that his decided disposition to please led him into many scrapes, and the fines he had drawn on himself and his tribe would, if they had all been duly paid, have stocked half the estates in Natukvitch with horned cattle.
The only remedy for these disorders was, that he should take to himself a wife or two; and as the ample patrimony he inherited no longer sufficed for it, the purchase money was cheerfully, and from motives of ecomony, contributed by his tribe. He accordingly married two wives. The first, the most beautiful, and the second, the most accomplished woman in Circassia. His success in the courtship of the former created no surprise. Beauty and bravery have mutual attractions all the world over; the one being held to be the legitimate meed of the other. But that Guavcha, the discreet and stately daughter of Indar Oglu, should throw herself away on such a scapegrace as Tongouse did excite the special wonder and the no small indignation of her tribe and family. The hand of a princess possessing the manual dexterity of Guavcha-unrivalled in the works of the loom and needle—had been eagerly sought by the
wisest and the wealthiest nobles of the land. But wealth and wisdom seemed to make little impression on her; and the fastidious princess, conscious, perhaps, that her charms were of a durable nature, was in no haste to make a selection. But her mind was at length made up, and that somewhat suddenly, being one fine morning nowhere to be found in the paternal domains of Pchat, having been transferred by moonlight on the crupper of his steed to the harem of Tongouse, at Tedjaguz.
To portray the person and equipment of this barbarous Lovelace, (a very appropriate name by the way for a Circassian gallant, who is garnished all over with silver trimmings,) would entirely baffle my feeble powers of description. As far as the habiliments are concerned, it would be impossible to convey any definite idea, for the simple reason that they were never for two days together the same—in casque, mail, and gloves of steel, gallantly armed, at one time—at another, he was undefended, not only against the enemy, but even against the weather, by a threadbare tunic; now, girt with bow and quiver, and now bristling with rifle, dagger, and pistol. At one moment clad in a gay silk anteri, and a coat resplendent with the silver lace aforesaid—the next he was covered with rags. To day he would meet you on a superb white charger richly caparisoned-to-morrow you
TCHOROOK OGLU TONGOUSE,
would see him worse mounted than the Knight of the Rueful Countenance himself. Now all these transmutations, which a stranger might unjustly charge to caprice, were in the eyes of the admiring Dely Canns but so many proofs of a brave and liberal spirit. Accoutrements, arms, horses, and slaves themselves, are things which such a hero is proud to part with—for it is presumed to be a proof that his valour can easily replace them.
But though in his outward man the Proteus I have attempted to delineate, there were qualities about Tongouse which he could not change with his coat. For example-however he might be dressed, I never knew him to stand less than six feet three inches in his shoes; and whether in shirt of steel or of Bez, the formidable play of his muscles was the same. Indeed, with regard to the latter, being much addicted to frolics and practical jokes, such as flooring, unhorsing, and riding down his companions, the vigour they exhibited was by many of them deemed even superfluous; whence it was said that the only fit playfellow for Tongouse was his horse; a saying, in a great measure, justified by the terms on which they lived, taking liberties with each other which none but the most intimate friends would venture upon.
At the time Tongouse was presented to us, we were disposed to feel warmly interested in his
favour, by an action of the most gallant description—the most, if not the only brilliant one that had been performed during that campaign, and the credit of which he shared jointly with Djanboulat. In their march from Ghelendjek to Pchat, the Russians had reached a part of the valley presenting a favourable opportunity of attack to their enemies, one which was not neglected by them-a shower of bullets, mixed with “the arrowy sleet of iron war,” rained upon them from the woods on both their flanks.
Their only resource, that of most people when caught in a shower, was to run for it. The forces of the Circassians were of course divided, being scattered along the declivities on both sides, and having the enemy and the valley, through which his columns were hastily defiling, between them. The sole plan of the chiefs on such occasions is to make the most of their vantage ground. It was, therefore, with much chagrin that those who were on the left side of the Russians perceived that a post which presented the best opportunity of annoying them had been left wholly unoccupied on the right. As all communication with the opposite bank was temporarily cut off, there appeared to be no means of remedying this omission.
In this emergency, Djanboulat, pointing to the valley with its glittering stream of bayonets below,
TCHOROOK OGLU TONGOUSE.
asked if there was anybody who dared to cross it with him. The challenge was at once accepted by Tongouse ; and the two chieftains, having led their horses down the hill side, in the covert of the trees, were soon mounted and prepared for the enterprise. It was the affair of a minute; even in less time they had raised their battle cry, and cut themselves a passage, to be traced, like that of the thunderbolt, only by the havoc they left behind them.
Tongouse has always shewn a great partiality for the Englishmen that have visited the country. When Mr. Stewart was there, he was bed-ridden, and was scarcely expected to live, having received a dangerous wound in the battle which took place the year before at Semez. He was, at his special desire, conveyed to Mr. Stewart in a litter. His devotion to Mr. Bell and myself was no less remarkable. It was, probably, too flattering to ourselves to allow of our examining too closely into the motives of it, though, had we done so, we should have found them, I think, highly creditable to him. The superiority ascribed to Englishmen in general, as well as the hopes now entertained of England's intervention, had made us very popular, and it was natural that an ardent disposition like his should attach itself, with a chivalrous feeling of loyalty, to persons so honoured and distinguished.