The triumphal entry of King Ibrahim II. into his capital was not only a glorious sight to its people, but an assurance that the long and disastrous wars between the rival States of Beejapoor and Ahmednugger were at an end. King Ibrahim had kept the field against the conspiracy of his cousin, the Prince Ismail, who was supported by a large portion of his own army under Eyn-ool-Moolk, and by his uncle, Boorhan Nizam, Shah of Ahmednugger; and against the possible advance of the Portuguese of Goa, whose skill in war was well known in the Dekhan. The King of Ahmednugger, however, could make no impression on the Beejapoor troops, who defended the frontier stoutly, and, falling ill, died in his camp at Puraindah. His son Ibrahim, a youth, was placed upon the throne, and soon after again pressed the war against Beejapoor, which brought on the general action in which Humeed Khan, the uncle of Abbas Khan, had proved victorious; and as the troops of Ahmednugger fled from the field with the loss of the whole of their artillery and war elephants, the long continued struggle came to an end, and the Royal army returned to Beejapoor, escorting their King in triumph. "On the 18th Mohorrum," writes the historian of the period, "the King made a triumphant entry into Beejapoor amid the acclamation of the people, who on this occasion had adorned the streets with gold and silver tissues, velvets, brocades, and other rich cloths and ornaments." But it was not the splendour of the spectacle which gratified the people; it was the assurance of safety and security from further disturbance, for which all were thankful. Those who had wavered in their allegiance now declared a hearty loyalty; and the southern invaders, under the Hindoo Prince of Penkonda, who had joined the conspiracy on the assurance of the conspirators that they might thus regain the dominions they had lost, having been defeated and driven back, there remained no part of the Beejapoor dominions that was not in profound peace after a long series of years of rebellion; and the people rejoiced in a real gladness which had not been felt for several generations.
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At the loud cries of the Mirdhas and silver-stick bearers of "Burkhast, Durbar Burkhast!" "The durbar is dissolved!" the various masses of troops filed out of the square before the Hall of Audience in the same gorgeous array as they had entered. Indeed, the effect was even more gorgeous, for before the assembly the sun had been…
As we already know, the force under Abbas Khan had marched northwards to the aid of the King; but as the rainy season was at its height, King Ibrahim had taken up his position at the fort of Shahdroog, or Nuldroog, and had left Humeed Khan with the main body of the army to watch the frontier and repel incursion should it take place. Abbas Khan, therefore, on receiving orders from the King, had marched to join his uncle, and arrived in time to take part in the finally victorious battle.
From his uncle he had received a very hearty and affectionate welcome, the particulars of which need not be recorded here; and it was with a great satisfaction that the veteran commander heard the details of the combat in the presence of the Queen Dowager, and the discovery of Osman Beg's treason. Abbas Khan had, indeed, to recount all the passages in his life which we already know of, which to his uncle had been so grievously misrepresented. There was nothing left but for Abbas Khan to show his valour in the next engagement that ensued, which proved to be a very severe one, for the left wing of the Beejapoor troops was broken by an impetuous charge of ten thousand of the Ahmednugger cavalry. Many nobles and high officers of rank were slain, and many fugitives rode at once to the King's camp declaring that the whole army had been routed. For three days the King was in the last degree of anxious uncertainty, till a despatch from Humeed Khan, sent by the hand of his nephew, who could describe the action, assured him of the most perfect victory. Then it was, too, that the day might have gone hard for the Royal army but for the exertions and daring bravery of the fresh force under his nephew; and he related, also, how bravely the enemy's heavy battery had been stormed by the Beydurs, who appeared unconscious of danger, and how both Abyssinians and Dekhan cavalry had vied with each other under their young leader. In a few days the King's forces joined those under Humeed Khan near Sholapoor, where public thanksgiving was made for the close of the war, and some rewards and honours were publicly bestowed. But the grand ceremony of all was to take place at Beejapoor on the day of entry into the capital; and the King, carrying with him the whole of his army, with the trophies in artillery and elephants, Royal camp equipage and treasure that had been won, crossed the Bheema river slowly, and, as we know, safely reached his destination.
While in camp together, our friends Runga Naik and Abbas Khan had held many an anxious conversation on the subject of the old Syud Dervish and Zóra. Runga had told him of the forcible abduction of the girl, and of her rescue by himself and Burma; how, when he was obliged to leave Korikul, he had made her and the Syud over to Burma's care, but from that time he had no news of them.
If they had left Kukeyra they might be at Sugger, or, possibly, had gone on to Gulburgah; but nothing could be known for certain till the men who were returning from his own force should reach their territory, and either bring the old man and Zóra with them to camp or to Beejapoor. It was this very party which, crossing the country direct from the Royal camp, so providentially rescued Zóra, unharmed, and took her to her grandfather; and regulating their movements by those of the King himself, arrived in time to witness his triumphal entry. I trust this slight digression will be pardoned, for, indeed, without it the position of the parties would hardly be understood with exactness.
After the slight interruption caused by raising the infirm old man, the grand march was resumed; and the young King rode on, with the bitter cry of the old Syud, "Daad! Daad! Justice! Justice!" ringing in his ears, and the sightless eyes and feeble arms raised to heaven. Abbas Khan's tale had distressed him seriously; but he was here face to face with one instance of the first King Ibrahim's cruelty, and the sin of it rested on his house. Well, it could be condoned, perhaps, for the curse of a holy Syud could hardly be averted even by penance; but he would do, as he had vowed to Alla, what it was possible to do ere the sun set. So the young Monarch rode on in his pride; Humeed Khan on his right hand, Soheil Khan and the brave commander on his left, preceded by his gold and silver mace-bearers shouting his titles, and followed by the crowds of nobles and officers who composed his train. The day was as yet young, but it was bright and clear; and the flood of light glittering on morion and coat of mail, on cuirass and greave, on trappings and housings of gold and silver cloth, on banners and standards, and the great white buildings and palaces which stood out against the clear, deep blue sky, formed a combination of splendour which the mind can hardly realise, and which was well-nigh overpowering to all who saw it.
As to Zóra, she—who had seen nothing in all her life of splendour such as that—was fairly overpowered. She trembled, and her cheeks flushed as the first portion of the troops issued from the gate and passed them, drowning the feeble chaunt she and her grandfather were raising. But alms were showered upon them, and Ahmed had gathered up several times already what lay on the sheet. When the hoarse cry arose of "The King cometh! The King cometh!" and all heads bowed to the earth as he passed on, she did not think of him, but of one that might be with him. And yet, if he were, would he remember her? Would he even see her? Ah! it was an anxious moment, and her beating heart fluttered till she could hardly breathe. As the glorious pageant went slowly past, she could see the face she sought distinctly. Abbas Khan was riding near his uncle, conversing joyously with him and others around him; and the appearance of the gallant cavalier, dressed in glittering armour and cloth of gold, was almost too dazzling to look at. There were hundreds of Fakeers lining the road, crying for alms in stentorian voices. How would the faint chaunt of an infirm old man and a girl be heard amidst the din—the jangling bells of elephants, the neighing of excited horses, and the cries of the Royal titles? And Abbas Khan must have passed the group but for the sudden action of her grandfather, who threw himself forward with his shrill cry. Even then the grooms who ran by the King's horse, which had been somewhat startled, would have removed the old man, roughly enough, perhaps, from the Royal path; but the action of Abbas Khan had been rapid, and instantaneous, and decisive. What he had said to the King she could not hear; but the King's reply, "Bring him to the palace instantly," at once gave her the assurance she needed. Now Abbas Khan had dismounted, and stood embracing her grandfather; and was telling Runga Naik, who had seen all, to seek for his litter, which was under some trees at a little distance. Poor Zóra had not been able to obtain one at Almella, and she had ridden her own stout pony, which was also brought up; and she was preparing to mount it when Abbas Khan cried, "Stay, Zóra! not in this crowd; here is a palanquin of the King's for thee." So she entered it, shut the doors, and was carried on. There was no time for words. The whole scene was to her so altogether strange and unexpected that she could not find speech to thank any one; and as she shut the doors of the palanquin, and was safe from observation, her overcharged heart found relief in a burst of grateful sobs and tears.
As the King's procession went on towards the city, outside the walls, for he had to receive the blessing of the Chishtee priest whom we know of, it was easy for Abbas Khan to turn off with his charge into the gate of the citadel, while Runga Naik brought up the baggage ponies behind. All was comparatively clear in the citadel, and would be till the King arrived; so that Abbas Khan had no difficulty in speaking to one of the chief eunuchs of the private apartments, whom he knew, and putting his old friend and Zóra under his charge. He could not stay; and galloping after the procession soon overtook it, and resumed his place by his uncle's side.
"Who was the girl beside the old man who helped to raise him up, and whom my horse well nigh trampled down? I never saw a more beautiful and expressive face in my life," said his uncle with, as it seemed, a peculiar smile.
"She is the old saint's granddaughter, sir; and has devoted her life to him. Yes, she is beautiful."
"Then thou hast seen her, Abbas?"
"I have, uncle. The night I was in delirium at Juldroog she watched me, and gave me medicine and cool sherbet; but I could only see her face as that of one in a dream, and I have never looked on it since but once, and that only as a passing glance, till to-day, when I could not help seeing her, for the handkerchief she had tied over her turban had fallen off. It is evident that the Syud hath taken the vow, perhaps at Gulburgah, where His Highness Geesoo Duráz made him a Wallee."
"Was he a Fakeer before then?" asked his uncle.
"No, sir. Though he called himself a Dervish, yet he had not taken any degree as a Fakeer, and people only called him Dervish. When he confided to me his identity his chief prayer was to be allowed to go free, that he might pay his vows at Sugger and Gulburgah, where, it appears, he was raised at once to the highest rank; and his title now is Luteef Shah Wallee. His is a sad story, uncle. Dost thou remember it?"
"I was a mere boy then," was the reply, "and used to attend the durbar with thy grandfather; but I quite remember the sadness with which all the city heard that Syud Ahmed Ali, the physician, had been blinded and sent to Juldroog. Everyone grieved for him, for he was not only the most learned of all at Court, but the most charitable. Many will remember him, and Ekhlas Khan was an intimate friend. Yea, it will cause a murmur in durbar when his name is mentioned, for he has been clean forgotten; and it was believed he had died soon after he was imprisoned. And thou hast told the King all?"
"All," replied the young Khan. "As the old Dervish told the tale to me, so did I repeat it faithfully; and I told him, too, how, under the Lord's will, he had saved my life."
"And what said he?"
"He wept, uncle; and said that the curse of a Syud should never rest upon the Adil Shah's realm or people; that search should be made for the Dervish. Then one day there came a holy man with a great retinue from Gulburgah, and told him—I was there—how a Fakeer had preached in the mosque, and a miracle had been done, and the heretofore Dervish had been made a Wallee at once, as the people demanded. And the King said to me, 'Thou art witness, Abbas Khan, that if I ever am blessed by the old man I will restore to him and his all he has lost.'"
"And he will do it, too," replied Humeed Khan. "And amidst the rejoicings of to-day one heart will be gladdened."
"Ameen! Ameen!" was the reply; and the conversation dropped.