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and went in its direction, and found that it
proceeded from his eldest daughter's room.
He listened, and heard her saying: " Oh,
Koja! and art thou near the gates of death?
Has this sorrow overtaken me? Is my
bridegroom about to be taken away! " The
old man marvelled at these words, and quietly
raising the curtain that closed the room,
beheld Lisa sitting on the carpet with a lamp
beside her, holding a ring in the bright
light, and shedding tears. " What is the
sorrow of my daughter? " said he, gently.
She looked up, without any expression of
alarm or surprise, and replied: " The last hour
is approaching, and I know not where he is or
what are the means of protection." Then she
showed the ring, which had lost all its brightness,
and seemed as if made of old copper.
The merchant understood that she had
nourished some secret affection, and repented
that he had not sought to learn the
reason of her madness. He was not very
agedhis passions were less strong than of yore
his ambition weakerhis prejudices almost
worn away; and therefore, when Lisa told
her story, he sympathised with her, and said:
"Perchance the young man may yet live,
for the ring is not yet black; and there is no
limit to the power and mercy of God." As
he spoke, the gold assumed a still darker
hue; and Lisa shrieked and fell senseless on
the carpet.

Now, it happened that at this time Koja
was returning with a caravan across the
desert that separates Arabia from Syria. The
simoom blew, and obliterated all signs of the
track. The caravan wanderedwater failed
death began its work. Koja, though
hardened by much travel, suffered the extreme
of thirst. Making a last effort, he left the
caravan, and wandered away through the
sand. Weakness came over himhe sank
down, and there seemed no means of escape.
He thought of Lisa; and as he felt death
coming on, prayed to be united to her in
heaven. Then he lost all memory and
consciousness; and the ring darkened almost to an
ebony-colour. Death had indeed just stretched
its hand over him when a troop of maidens
from an encampment near at hand, which
had been concealed by a hill, came by, on their
way to search for some camels that had
strayed. One of them saw the dying man,
and revived him at first by pressing her
moist lips to his. Then she called to one of
her companions who had a gourd, and
sprinkled his face with water. Afterwards
she made him drink. Then they
took him up as if he had been a child, and
carried him to the tents, where he was tended
all night by the women, while the men went
out to save the remnants of the caravan. It
is needless to add that, before morning, the
ring had almost resumed its brightness,
and that the heart of Lisa was glad again.

A fresh peril awaited Koja. The Bedouin
girl who had saved him, loved him, and
with rude simplicity claimed from him, first,
the sacrifice of his faith; and then, when
he had told his story of his long-abiding
passion, she could not understand that engrossing
kind of attachment, urged her youth,
her attractions, her wealth, her services,
and even uttered threats. Koja remained
unmoved; and at last Fatmeh said, " I will
go with you to that distant city, leaving my
father, and my friends, and my country, and
learn if there be a woman who can love the
absent for seven years. If it be true, she
shall be thy wife, and I will be thy wife
also." Koja smiled, and explained that people
of his faith could marry but one: a principle
which Fatmeh approved, though it disarranged
her plans. They escaped together; for
the girl said she was determined to view this
marvel of fidelity, and perhaps secretly hoped
that death might have made the way clear
for herself. Wonderful adventures happened
to them on their road. But at length Beyrout
was reached, and Koja and Fatmeh stood
before the gate of the mansion in which Lisa
lived: both disguised as beggars. They asked
for shelter, and it was granted. Lisa
wondered at the marvellous brightness of the
ring; it shone more like a diamond than a
piece of gold. She went out into the courtyard,
and beheld Koja. Neither time nor
altered dress could conceal him from her;
rushing forward she seized his hand and
covered it with tears and kisses, saying,
"Oh, my master! and hast thou at length
returned to gladden me?" Koja embraced
her and then turned towards the spot where
Fatmeh had stood. But the Bedouin girl
had disappeared, and was no more heard
of in Beyrout.

The merchant father of Lisa exacted but
one condition, before he would consent to
the marriage of the constant lovers,—that
Koja should join the Maronite communion.
He easily acquiesced, having, no doubt, learned
wisdom from travel. So, after a long period
of suffering came a longer period of joy.

Were men less divided into sects and classes,
there might have been no materials for this
legend. We must take the world as it is,
however. Half our miseries are of our
ownmaking; and some of the finest qualities
of humanity are expended in overcoming
obstacles to happiness, which nature has not
created.

NEW TALE by Mr. CHARLES DICKENS to be
published Weekly in HOUSEHOLD WORDS.
ON the 29th of April will be published, in Household
Words, the Fifth Portion of a New Work of Fiction,
called
HARD TIMES.
BY CHARLES DICKENS.

The publication of this Story will be continued in HOUSEHOLD
WORDS from Week to Week, and completed    in Five Months.
Price of each Weekly Number of HOUSEHOLD WORDS,
(containing, besides the usual variety of matter), Twopence; or Stamped,
Threepence.
HOUSEHOLD WORDS, CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS,
is published also In Monthly Parts and in Half-Yearly Volumes

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