Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

have finished his mosque; and when his tower rose above the highest pines of the neighbouring hills, he solaced himself with the hope, that the peasants who gazed at an awful distance would believe that within its walls dwelt one of the sons of men, as powerful as the Genii, and as mysterious as the Dives.

Bekfudi possessed abundance of taste. His command of wealth enabled him to engross the rare productions of art which were sometimes too costly even for emirs to acquire; and he lavished his gold upon those who could best apply their talents to the excitement of his self-admiration. All the ornaments of his palace had reference to his ancestors ; but though the artists, who recorded in fit emblems the mighty deeds of his progenitors, had an especial regard to truth, they sedulously avoided all allusion to the basket-bearer. In a word, the mosque was a very magnificent place. It was the handsomest monument that taste ever reared to pride; and though Bekfudi in his arrogance had tried to make his tower rival the dome of the great mosque at Damascus, and had only been stopt in his presumptuous aspirings by the equally insolent hurricane, which twice blew it down,-and though in his profaneness he had built his dormitories like the cells of the most pious santons, and had constructed studies and refectories after the models of sanctuaries and shrines, still the palace was gorgeous and elegant, and such as no subject ever before raised in the dominions of the Commander of the Faithful.

Bekfudi went on for many moons building and embellishing his mosque-heaping stones upon his tower till the uncivil blasts gave him hints where to stop, and hanging up new draperies of Persian silks till the limited art of the dyer forbade any further change. The superb merchant lived away in a round of selfish enjoyment ; his slaves racked their inventions to prepare him viands of the most costly materials; and as his health would not allow him always to drink the red wine of Shiraz, he took care, under the fatal necessity of resorting to so common a beverage as water, to render it palatable by sending caravans and escorts to bring it from a fountain at a hundred leagues' distance.

The great Mahomet, who had commissioned the Genii to mature and then pull down the presumptuous darings of the caliph Vathek, also resolved to crush the ambition of the merchant Bekfudi. But as the pride and power of the mosquebuilder were bounded by natural limits, it was unnecessary to work any miracles for his instruction. He lived on in his round of luxuries ; and as his caravans came duly over the desert, and his ships were seldom lost upon the sea, he thought

that the spices and the fruits of his fertile isles would last for ever.

But there was a sudden change in the fashions of Samarah. The cooks began to make their comfits without cinnamon, and the green dates of their native plains came into request, to the exclusion of the dried fruits of our wealthy merchant. His spices and his figs lay rotting in his warehouses, and, for the first time in his life, he began to think that his mine of wealth was not inexhaustible.

Thirty moons had passed before Bekfudi ceased to pull down and build up the apartments of his mosque, or to send a hundred leagues for his water. The pastry-cooks were inexorable, and his own household even could not endure the flavour of cinnamon. He at length discharged his masons and his carpenters, and, as a great effort of economy, abridged his table of one of the fifty-two dishes with which it was daily covered. But all these privations were unavailing ; Bekfudi was in debt, and his creditors would not wait for a change in the taste for spices. He resolved to invite all Samarah to see his mosque, and to purchase his curiosities. For three moons all Samarah went mad. Away ran the idle and the busy, to scramble up Bekfudi's tower,--to wander about his long galleries upon carpets from Cairo,-to touch his gold censers, or to pore upon his curious pictures. As to his books, Bekfudi carefully locked them up. He was a great commentator, and his relish for theological speculations led him to fear that his performances might introduce him to too close an acquaintance with the mufti and the cadi.

Amongst the mob who had been to see Bekfudi's tower, was a clever little Persian Jew, who had the reputation of being one of the most discreet dealers in Samarah. Did a courtier require a thousand piastres to bribe a judge, our little Jew would raise the sum in a moment, upon the pledge of the courtier's carbuncle; or did a lady of the seraglio desire a pound of gold dust to fee an eunuch, our little Jew would furnish it upon the most moderate interest. His warehouses were full of the moveable treasures of all the great men of the palace, from the grand vizier to the principal mute ; and everybody vowed that he was the honestest Jew in the world, and it was a great pity so useful and so clever a trader should be a dog of an infidel.

Bekfudi had a hatred of all Jews; but, nevertheless, our little factor contrived to approach him.

66 He had come to proffer his services to the great merchant; he humbly proposed to purchase his matchless curiosities, and his magnificent furniture.” “ What! he, the giaour from Persia ? he presume to offer a price for rarities that monarchs might covet?” “ Yes; and moreover, he would purchase his books

[ocr errors]

and his paintings, his vessels of gold and of silver, his wine, his The merchant was in a rage, and drove the Jew from his presence: but he quickly recalled him. Slave,” cried Bekfudi, “ I will hold a moment's parley with thee. How much wilt thou give for my topaz cup, and my goblet set with emeralds ?” “ I will not purchase these alone,” said the Jew, “ but I will purchase thy lands, and thy mosque, and thy silken draperies, and thy woven carpets, and thy golden vessels, and thy jewels, and thy books, and thy pictures, and all that thy palace contains; and here, without, I have twenty dromedaries laden with four hundred thousand sequins, which shall be thine.” Bekfudi was in a rage, but the eloquence of the dromedaries prevailed; and that night the little Jew locked up the mosque with the airs of a master.

The mob from Samarah was soon dispersed; and Bekfudi prepared with many a sigh to leave a palace of which he had so long been the uncontrolled lord. The little Jew haunted him from gallery to gallery, and from the gloom of the sanctuary to the sunlight of the great lantern. With the most provoking malice he dwelt upon the beautiful proportions of this pavilion, and the magnificent furniture of that saloon; and swore that none of the monarchs of the world could rival the great merchant in taste and splendour. “ And what will you do with this unequalled palace,” said Bekfudi ? “I have bought it for a dealer in sulphur,” replied the Jew. The pride of Bekfudi was ground into the dust; but he was curious to see the rival of his wealth and the inheritor of his possessions. It was agreed that they sliould meet at dinner.

The hour came, and Bekfudi appeared in the grand saloon attired in a splendid vest;—the aigrette of his turban was composed of the largest diamonds, and the plume that it bore was from the wing of a bird of paradise. His delicate hands weré washed with the choicest essences, and the perfumes of his garments plunged the senses into a languor which nothing but the excitements of the most exquisite viands could dissipate. He expected to have met in the dealer in sulphur, a personage whose riches would have procured for him some of the refinements which belonged to the dealer in spices ;-but how was he humiliated when a miserable old man presented himself, as ugly as a faquir that had been doing penance for fifty years, wrapped round with a wretched robe of dirty cotton, and his head surmounted with a beastly turban, that all the waters of Rocnabad could never purify. The forehead of this captivating personage was covered with knots and wrinkles, his blear eyes twinkled in their little pursed-up sockets, his enormous mouth exhibited three teeth of the most delicious blackness, and his rheum was freely bestowed upon those whom the flavour of his breath did not keep at a respectful distance. Bekfudi shrieked and shouted for his dwarf; but the obsequious Jew called in a loud voice for dinner, and the unhappy merchant was constrained by his politeness to take his seat at the board. The new possessor of the mosque was equally attractive in his diét; a ragout of garlic was served up for his especial pleasure ; and as he dipped his grimy hands into the golden dish, Bekfudi would have fainted at the odour of the savoury steams, had not his faithful dwarf thrown the reviving attar over his forehead, and forced a cup of sherbet down his throat. The mouth of the dealer in sulphur distended into an audible grin, and he pledged the dainty merchant in execrable brandy. Their conversation at length became interesting. The man of sulphur had a most agreeable collection of oaths; and as he swore by Solomon and Eblis, by the sacred camel and the dog of the seven sleepers, the man of spice perceived that he had a high reverence for the mysteries of theology ;-and a wonderful sympathy in this particular grew up between them. They embraced and parted; but Bekfudi never forgot the garlic.

The little Jew soon applied his master's purchase to good account. Within a week the superb merchant began to indulge a wish for the possession of some of his former most splendid baubles; he bethought him that his free habit of expressing his thoughts in the broad margins of his beautiful manuscripts might one day cause some awkward inquiries; and he was desirous of securing some pictures, of which he thought none but himself knew the peculiar value. He of the dirty hands was as ready to comply with these reasonable wishes, and Bekfudi began to think that his turban and his garlic might in time be endurable. The articles were selected, but the little Jew had yet to name the price. Bekfudi . raved and tore his hair when a fourth of his four hundred thousand sequins were demanded for what had cost even him not a tenth of the sum. He raved and tore his hair ; but the Jew and the sulphur-merchant were calm. 'Bekfudi had not yet learned to subject his desires to his circumstances ; and two dromedaries marched off with their costly load.

The Jew and his merchant passed the winter very industriously. From his warehouses in Samarah, this active dealer brought all the glittering pledges which the misfortunes of his clients had left unredeemed; and he decorated the mosque. like a grand bazaar, with a great many new curiosities, and a great many rare commodities with fine names from the east and the west, which the artists of Samarah could manufacture as well as those of Persia or China. The little Jew knew where to find expert limners, who could imitate the paintings even

of the celebrated Mani, so as to deceive the most critical eyes ; clever copyists, that would transcribe the tales and poems of Arabia, with a correctness that would enchant the most exquisite connoisseurs ; and acute chemists, that would give to the secretly pressed grape-juice of the gardens of Bekfudi himself, the inimitable flavour of the wines of Shiraz or Kismische. The little Jew had, however, not quite so complete a judgment as the builder of the mosque, and he therefore committed a few mistakes with a very enterprising spirit. Amidst the solemn and subdued splendour of the sanctuary, upon which Bekfudi most prided himself, he hung up an enormous mirror which brought all the varied colours of the neighbouring galleries, and all the garishness of day, into the heart of its former deep and impressive gloom ; and in the hall which the spice merchant had dedicated to the worthies of his country, he stuck up the statue of one of the rebellious princes who had presumed to contend against the justice of the great Haroun al Raschid. But the little Jew was yet à most deserving factor. All Samarah again flocked to the mosque with the great minaret; and all Samarah came this time with money in their vests, to purchase some relic of the magnificent Bekfudi. Every one was pleased, except the unhappy builder of the palace, for every one was agreeably relieved of his sequins at his own free-will. He alone writhed under the mortifications of his pride, and the outrages upon his taste. He stalked one day into the palace of his splendour, now metamorphosed into one large bazaar, and with a yell of fury he overthrew the statue of the foe of the caliph, and shivered into a thousand pieces the mirror which deformed the sanctuary. He then coolly paid the price which the Jew demanded, and retired to a humble dwelling without a minaret, to pass the remainder of his days in composing treatises on temperance and humility.


It is now the twelfth day of September ;-and having been under a solemn pledge for fourteen weeks to write a paper or two for the second number of that excellent and most punctual Periodical, the Quarterly Magazine, I propose to discharge the obligation by a treatise on the Idleness of Authors.

Delightful characteristic of our tribe !-ennobling privilege of our calling, which alone sets us above opera-dancers and political economists !-little understood and much abused germ of all intellectual excellence !-thou solace of poets

« AnteriorContinuar »