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Alroy - The Prince Of The Captivity
by Benjamin Disraeli
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'A Jewish witch!' exclaimed the Seljuk.

'A Jewish witch! Be it so; behold, then, my spell falls upon thee, and that spell is Destruction.

'Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song; arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam!'

Immediately the sky appeared to darken, a cloud of arrows and javelins broke from all sides upon the clevoted Seljuks: immense masses of stone and marble were hurled from all directions, horses were stabbed by spears impelled by invisible hands, and riders fell to the ground without a struggle, and were trampled upon by their disordered and affrighted brethren.

'We are betrayed,' exclaimed Hassan Subah, hurling a javelin at the merchant, but the merchant was gone. The Seljuks raised their famous war cry.

'Oglu, regain the desert,' ordered the chieftain.

But no sooner had the guard without the walls heard the war cry of their companions, than, alarmed, for their safety, they rushed to their assistance. The retreating forces of Subah, each instant diminishing as they retreated, were baffled in their project by the very eagerness of their auxiliaries. The unwilling contention of the two parties increased the confusion; and when the Seljuks, recently arrived, having at length formed into some order, had regained the gate, they found to their dismay that the portal was barricadoed and garrisoned by the enemy. Uninspired by the presence of their commander, who was in the rear, the puzzled soldiers were seized with a panic, and spurring their horses, dispersed in all directions of the city. In vain Hassan Subah endeavoured to restore order. The moment was past. Dashing with about thirty men to an open ground, which his quick eye had observed in his progress down the street, and dealing destruction with every blow, the dreaded Governor of Hamadan, like a true soldier, awaited an inevitable fate, not wholly despairing that some chance might yet turn up to extricate him from his forlorn situation.

And now, as it were by enchantment, wild armed men seemed to arise from every part of the city. From every mass of ruin, from every crumbling temple and mouldering mansion, from every catacomb and cellar, from behind every column and every obelisk, upstarted some desperate warrior with a bloody weapon. The massacre of the Seljuks was universal. The horsemen dashed wildly about the ruined streets, pursued by crowds of footmen; sometimes, formed in small companies, the Seljuks charged and fought desperately; but, however stout might be their resistance to the open foe, it was impossible to withstand their secret enemies. They had no place of refuge, no power of gaining even a moment's breathing time. If they retreated to a wall it instantly bristled with spears; if they endeavoured to form, in a court, they sank under the falling masses which were showered upon them. Strange shouts of denunciation blended with the harsh braying of horns, and the clang and clash of cymbals and tambours sounded in every quarter of the city.

'If we could only mount the walls, Ibrahim, and leap into the desert!' exclaimed Hassan Subah to one of his few remaining comrades; ''tis our only chance. We die here like dogs! Could I but meet Alroy!'

Three of the Seljuks dashed swiftly across the open ground in front, followed by several Hebrew horsemen.

'Smite all, Abner. Spare none, remember Amalek,' exclaimed their youthful leader, waving his bloody scimitar.

'They are down; one, two, there goes the third. My javelin has done for him.'

'Your horse bleeds freely. Where's Jabaster?'

'At the gates; my arm aches with slaughter. The Lord hath delivered them into our hands. Could I but meet their chieftain!'

'Turn, bloodhound, he is here,' exclaimed Hassan Subah.

'Away, Abner, this affair is mine.'

'Prince, you have already slain your thousands.'

'And Abner his tens of thousands. Is it so? This business is for me only. Come on, Turk.'

'Art thou Alroy?'

'The same.'

'The slayer of Alschiroch?'

'Even so.'

'A rebel and a murderer.'

'What you please. Look to yourself.'

The Hebrew Prince flung a javelin at the Seljuk. It glanced from the breastplate; but Hassan Subah staggered in his seat. Recovering, he charged Alroy with great force. Their scimitars crossed, and the blade of Hassan shivered.

'He who sold me that blade told me it was charmed, and could be broken only by a caliph,' said Hassan Subah. 'He was a liar.'

'As it may be,' said Alroy, and he cut the Seljuk to the ground. Abner had dispersed his comrades. Alroy leaped from his fainting steed, and, mounting the ebon courser of his late enemy, dashed again into the thickest of the fight.

The shades of night descended, the clamour gradually decreased, the struggle died away. A few unhappy Moslemin who had quitted their saddles and sought concealment among the ruins, were occasionally hunted out, and brought forward and massacred. Long ere midnight the last of the Seljuks had expired.[56]

The moon shed a broad light upon the street of palaces crowded with the accumulated slain and the living victors. Fires were lit, torches illumined, the conquerors prepared the eager meal as they sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving.

A procession approached. Esther the prophetess, clashing her cymbals, danced before the Messiah of Israel, who leant upon his victorious scimitar, surrounded by Jabaster, Abner, Scherirah, and his chosen chieftains. Who could now doubt the validity of his mission? The wide and silent desert rang with the acclamations of his enthusiastic votaries.

Heavily the anxious hours crept on in the Jewish quarter of Hamadan. Again and again the venerable Bostenay discussed the chances of success with the sympathising but desponding elders. Miriam was buried in constant prayer. Their most sanguine hopes did not extend beyond the escape of their Prince.

A fortnight had elapsed, and no news had been received of the progress of the expedition, when suddenly, towards sunset, a sentinel on a watch-tower announced the appearance of an armed force in the distance. The walls were instantly lined with the anxious inhabitants, the streets and squares filled with curious crowds. Exultation sat on the triumphant brow of the Moslemin; a cold tremor stole over the fluttering heart of the Hebrew.

'There is but one God,' said the captain of the gate.

'And Mahomed is His prophet,' responded a sentinel.

'To-morrow we will cut off the noses of all these Jewish dogs.'

'The sceptre has departed,' exclaimed the despairing Bostenay.

'Lord, remember David!' whispered Miriam, as she threw herself upon the court of the palace, and buried her face in ashes.

The Mollahs in solemn procession advanced to the ramparts, to shed their benediction on the victorious Hassan Subah. The Muezzin ascended the minarets to watch the setting sun, and proclaim the power of Allah with renewed enthusiasm.

'I wonder if Alroy be dead or alive,' said the captain of the gate.

'If he be alive, he will be impaled,' responded a sentinel.

'If dead, the carcass will be given to the dogs,' rejoined the captain; 'that is the practice.'

'Bostenay will be hung,' said the sentinel.

'And his niece, too,' answered the captain.

'Hem!' said the sentinel. 'Hassan Subah loves a black eye.'

'I hope a true Moslem will not touch a Jewess,' exclaimed an indignant black eunuch.

'They approach. What a dust!' said the captain of the gate.

'I see Hassan Subah!' said the sentinel.

'So do I,' said the eunuch, 'I know his black horse.'

'I wonder how many dirhems old Bostenay is worth,' said the captain.

'Immense!' said the sentinel.

'No plunder, I suppose?' said the eunuch.

'We shall see,' said the captain; 'at any rate, I owe a thousand to old Shelomi. We need not pay now, you know.'

'Certainly not,' said the black eunuch. 'The rebels.'

A body of horsemen dashed forward. Their leader in advance reined in his fiery charger beneath the walls.

'In the name of the Prophet, who is that?' exclaimed the captain of the gate, a little confused.

'I never saw him before,' said the sentinel, 'although he is in the Seljuk dress. 'Tis some one from Bagdad, I guess.'

A trumpet sounded.

'Who keeps the gate?' called out the warrior.

'I am the captain of the gate,' answered our friend.

'Open it, then, to the King of Israel.'

'To whom?' enquired the astonished captain.

'To King David. The Lord hath delivered Hassan Subah and his host into our hands, and of all the proud Seljuks none remaineth. Open thy gates, I say, and lose no time. I am Jabaster, a lieutenant of the Lord; this scimitar is my commission. Open thy gates, and thou and thy people shall have that mercy which they have never shown; but if thou delayest one instant, thus saith the King our master, "I will burst open your portal, and smite, and utterly destroy all that you have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."'

'Call forth the venerable Lord Bostenay,' said the captain of the gate, with chattering teeth. 'He will intercede for us.'

'And the gentle Lady Miriam,' said the sentinel. 'She is ever charitable.'

'I will head the procession,' said the black eunuch; 'I am accustomed to women.'

The procession of Mollahs shuffled back to their college with profane precipitation; the sun set, and the astounded Muezzin stood with their mouths open, and quite forgot to announce the power of their Deity, and the validity of their Prophet. The people all called out for the venerable Lord Bostenay and the gentle Lady Miriam, and ran in crowds to see who could first kiss the hem of their garments.

The principal gate of Hamadan opened into the square of the great mosque. Here the whole population of the city appeared assembled. The gates were thrown open; Jabaster and his companions mounted guard. The short twilight died away, the shades of night descended. The minarets were illumined,[57] the houses hung with garlands, the ramparts covered with tapestry and carpets.

A clang of drums, trumpets, and cymbals announced the arrival of the Hebrew army. The people shouted, the troops without responded with a long cheer of triumph. Amid the blaze of torches, a youth waving his scimitar, upon a coal-black steed, bounded into the city, at the head of his guards, the people fell upon their knees, and shouted 'Long live Alroy!'

A venerable man, leading a beauteous maiden with downcast eyes, advanced. They headed a deputation of the chief inhabitants of the city. They came to solicit mercy and protection. At the sight of them, the youthful warrior leaped from his horse, flung away his scimitar, and clasping the maiden in his arms, exclaimed, 'Miriam, my sister, this, this indeed is triumph!'

'Drink,' said Kisloch the Kourd to Calidas the Indian; 'you forget, comrade, we are no longer Moslemin.'

'Wine, methinks, has a peculiarly pleasant flavour in a golden cup,' said the Guebre. 'I got this little trifle to-day in the Bazaar,' he added, holding up a magnificent vase studded with gems.

'I thought plunder was forbidden,' grinned the Negro.

'So it is,' replied the Guebre; 'but we may purchase what we please, upon credit.'

'Well, for my part, I am a moderate man,' exclaimed Calidas the Indian, 'and would not injure even these accursed dogs of Turks. I have not cut my host's throat, but only turned him into my porter, and content myself with his harem, his baths, his fine horses, and other little trifles.'

'What quarters we are in! There is nothing like a true Messiah!' exclaimed Kisloch, devoutly.

'Nothing,' said Calidas; 'though to speak truth, I did not much believe in the efficacy of Solomon's sceptre, till his Majesty clove the head of the valiant Seljuk with it.'

'But now there's no doubt of it,' said the Guebre.

'We should indeed be infidels if we doubted now,' replied the Indian.

'How lucky,' grinned the Negro, 'as I had no religion before, that I have now fixed upon the right one!'

'Most fortunate!' said the Guebre. 'What shall we do to amuse ourselves to-night?'

'Let us go to the coffee-houses and make the Turks drink wine,' said Calidas the Indian.

'What say you to burning down a mosque?' said Kisloch the Kourd.

'I had great fun with some Dervishes this morning,' said the Guebre. 'I met one asking alms with a wire run through his cheek,[58] so I caught another, bored his nose, and tied them both together!'

'Hah! hah! hah!' burst the Negro.

Asia resounded with the insurrection of the Jews, and the massacre of the Seljuks. Crowds of Hebrews, from the rich cities of Persia and the populous settlements on the Tigris and the Euphrates, hourly poured into Hamadan.

The irritated Moslemin persecuted the brethren of the successful rebel, and this impolicy precipitated their flight. The wealth of Bagdad flowed into the Hebrew capital. Seated on the divan of Hassan Subah, and wielding the sceptre of Solomon, the King of Israel received the homage of his devoted subjects, and despatched his envoys to Syria and to Egypt. The well-stored magazines and arsenals of Hamadan soon converted the pilgrims into warriors. The city was unable to accommodate the increased and increasing population. An extensive camp, under the command of Abner, was formed without the walls, where the troops were daily disciplined, and where they were prepared for greater exploits than a skirmish in a desert.

Within a month after the surrender of Hamadan, the congregation of the people assembled in the square of the great mosque, now converted into a synagogue. The multitude was disposed in ordered ranks, and the terrace of every house was crowded. In the centre of the square was an altar of cedar and brass, and on each side stood a company of priests guarding the victims, one young bullock, and two rams without blemish.

Amid the flourish of trumpets, the gates of the synagogue opened, and displayed to the wondering eyes of the Hebrews a vast and variegated pavilion planted in the court. The holy remnant, no longer forlorn, beheld that tabernacle of which they had so long dreamed, once more shining in the sun, with its purple and scarlet hangings, its curtains of rare skins, and its furniture of silver and gold.

A procession of priests advanced, bearing, with staves of cedar, run through rings of gold, a gorgeous ark, the work of the most cunning artificers of Persia. Night and day had they laboured, under the direction of Jabaster, to produce this wondrous spectacle. Once more the children of Israel beheld the cherubim. They burst into a triumphant hymn of thanksgiving, and many drew their swords, and cried aloud to be led against the Canaanites.

From the mysterious curtains of the tabernacle, Alroy came forward, leading Jabaster. They approached the altar. And Alroy took robes from the surrounding priests, and put them upon Jabaster, and a girdle, and a breastplate of jewels. And Alroy took a mitre, and placed it upon the head of Jabaster, and upon the mitre he placed a crown; and pouring oil upon his head, the pupil anointed the master High Priest of Israel.

The victims were slain, the sin-offering burnt. Amid clouds of incense, bursts of music, and the shouts of a devoted people; amid odour, and melody, and enthusiasm, Alroy mounted his charger, and at the head of twenty thousand men, departed to conquer Media.

The extensive and important province of Aderbijan, of which Hamadan was the capital, was formed of the ancient Media. Its fate was decided by one battle. On the plain of Nehauend, Alroy met the hastily-raised levies of the Atabek of Kermanshah, and entirely routed them. In the course of a month, every city of the province had acknowledged the supremacy of the new Hebrew monarch, and, leaving Abner to complete the conquest of Louristan, Alroy entered Persia.

The incredible and irresistible progress of Alroy roused Togrul, the Turkish Sultan of Persia, from the luxurious indolence of the palaces of Nishapur. He summoned his emirs to meet him at the imperial city of Rhey, and crush, by one overwhelming effort, the insolent rebel.

Religion, valour, and genius, alike inspired the arms of Alroy, but he was, doubtless, not a little assisted by the strong national sympathy of his singular and scattered people, which ever ensured him prompt information of all the movements of his enemy. Without any preparation, he found agents in every court, and camp, and cabinet; and, by their assistance, he anticipated the designs of his adversaries, and turned even their ingenuity to their confusion. The imperial city of Rhey was surprised in the night, sacked, and burnt to the ground. The scared and baffled emirs who escaped, flew to the Sultan Togrul, tearing their beards, and prophesying the approaching termination of the world. The palaces of Nishapur resounded with the imprecations of their master, who, cursing the Jewish dogs, and vowing a pilgrimage to Mecca, placed himself at the head of a motley multitude of warriors, and rushed upon the plains of Irak, to exterminate Alroy.

The Persian force exceeded the Hebrew at least five times in number. Besides a large division of Seljuks, the Caucasus had poured forth its strange inhabitants to swell the ranks of the Faithful. The wild tribes of the Bactiari were even enlisted, with their fatal bows, and the savage Turkmans, tempted by the sultan's gold, for a moment yielded their liberty, and shook their tall lances in his ranks.

But what is a wild Bactiari, and what is a savage Turkman, and what even a disciplined and imperious Seljuk, to the warriors of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob? At the first onset, Alroy succeeded in dividing the extended centre of Togrul, and separating the greater part of the Turks from their less disciplined comrades. At the head of his Median cavalry, the Messiah charged and utterly routed the warriors of the Caucasus. The wild tribes of the Bactiari discharged their arrows and fled, and the savage Turkmans plundered the baggage of their own commander.

The Turks themselves fought desperately; but, deserted by their allies, and surrounded by an inspired foe, their efforts were unavailing, and their slaughter terrible. Togrul was slain while heading a desperate and fruitless charge, and, after his fall, the battle resembled a massacre rather than a combat. The plain was glotted with Seljuk gore. No quarter was given or asked. Twenty thousand chosen troops fell on the side of the Turks; the rest dispersed and gained the mountains. Leaving Scherirah to restore order, Alroy the next morning pushed on to Nishapur at the head of three thousand horsemen, and summoned the city ere the inhabitants were apprised of the defeat and death of their sultan. The capital of Persia escaped the fate of Rhey by an inglorious treaty and a lavish tribute. The treasures of the Chosroes and the Gasnevides were despatched to Hamadan, on which city day dawned, only to bring intelligence of a victory or a conquest.

While Alroy dictated peace on his own terms in the palaces of Nishapur, Abner, having reduced Louristan, crossed the mountains, and entered Persia with the reinforcements he had received from Jabaster. Leaving the government and garrisoning of his new conquests to this valiant captain, Alroy, at the head of the conquerors of Persia, in consequence of intelligence received from Hamadan, returned by forced marches to that city.

Leaving the army within a day's march of the capital, Alroy, accompanied only by his staff, entered Hamadan in the evening, and, immediately repairing to the citadel, summoned Jabaster to council. The night was passed by the king and the high priest in deep consultation. The next morning, a decree apprised the inhabitants of the return of their monarch, of the creation of the new 'Kingdom of the Medes and Persians,' of which Hamadan was declared the capital, and Abner the viceroy, and of the intended and immediate invasion of Syria, and re-conquest of the Land of Promise.

The plan of this expedition had been long matured, and the preparations to effect it were considerably advanced. Jabaster had not been idle during the absence of his pupil. One hundred thousand warriors were now assembled[59] at the capital of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; of these the greater part were Hebrews, but many Arabs, wearied of the Turkish yoke, and many gallant adventurers from the Caspian, easily converted from a vague idolatry to a religion of conquest, swelled the ranks of the army of the Lord of Hosts.

The plain of Hamadan was covered with tents, the streets were filled with passing troops, the bazaars loaded with military stores; long caravans of camels laden with supplies every day arrived from the neighbouring towns; each instant some high-capped Tatar with despatches[60] rushed into the city and galloped his steed up the steep of the citadel. The clang of arms, the prance of horses, the flourish of warlike music, resounded from all quarters. The business and the treasure of the world seemed, as it were in an instant, to have become concentrated in Hamadan. Every man had some great object; gold glittered in every hand. All great impulses were stirring; all the causes of human energy were in lively action. Every eye sparkled, every foot trod firm and fast. Each man acted as if the universal fate depended upon his exertions; as if the universal will sympathised with his particular desire. A vast population influenced by a high degree of excitement is the most sublime of spectacles.

The commander of the Faithful raised the standard of the Prophet on the banks of the Tigris. It was the secret intelligence of this intended event that had recalled Alroy so suddenly from Persia. The latent enthusiasm of the Moslemin was excited by the rare and mystic ceremony, and its effects were anticipated by previous and judicious preparations. The Seljuks of Bagdad alone amounted to fifty thousand men; the Sultan of Syria contributed the warriors who had conquered the Arabian princes of Damascus and Aleppo; while the ancient provinces of Asia Minor, which formed the rich and powerful kingdom of Seljukian Roum, poured forth a myriad of that matchless cavalry, which had so often baffled the armies of the Caesars. Never had so imposing a force been collected on the banks of the Tigris since the reign of Haroun Alraschid. Each day some warlike Atabek, at the head of his armed train, poured into the capital of the caliphs,[61] or pitched his pavilion on the banks of the river; each day the proud emir of some remote principality astonished or affrighted the luxurious Babylonians by the strange or uncouth warriors that had gathered round his standard in the deserts of Arabia, or on the shores of the Euxine. For the space of twenty miles, the banks of the river were, on either side, far as the eye could reach, covered with the variegated pavilions, the glittering standards, the flowing streamers and twinkling pennons of the mighty host, of which Malek, the Grand Sultan of the Seljuks, and Governor of the Caliph's palace, was chief commander.

Such was the power assembled on the plains of Asia to arrest the progress of the Hebrew Prince, and to prevent the conquest of the memorable land promised to the faith of his fathers, and forfeited by their infidelity. Before the walls of Hamadan, Alroy reviewed the army of Israel, sixty thousand heavy-armed footmen, thirty thousand archers and light troops, and twenty thousand cavalry. Besides these, there had been formed a body of ten thousand picked horsemen, styled the 'Sacred Guard,' all of whom had served in the Persian campaign. In their centre, shrouded in a case of wrought gold, studded with carbuncles, and carried on a lusty lance of cedar, a giant—for the height of Elnebar exceeded that of common men by three feet—bore the sceptre of Solomon. The Sacred Guard was commanded by Asriel, the brother of Abner.

The army was formed into three divisions. All marched in solemn order before the throne of Alroy, raised upon the ramparts, and drooped their standards and lances as they passed their heroic leader. Bostenay, and Miriam, and the whole population of the city witnessed the inspiring spectacle from the walls. That same eve, Scherirah, at the head of forty thousand men, pushed on towards Bagdad, by Kermanshah; and Jabaster, who commanded in his holy robes, and who had vowed not to lay aside his sword until the rebuilding of the temple, conducted his division over the victorious plain of Nehauend. They were to concentrate at the pass of Kerrund, which conducted into the province of Bagdad, and await the arrival of the king.

At the dawn of day, the royal division and the Sacred Guard, the whole under the command of Asriel, quitted the capital. Alroy still lingered, and for some hours the warriors of his staff might have been observed lounging about the citadel, or practising their skill in throwing the jerreed as they exercised their impatient chargers before the gates.

The king was with the Lady Miriam, walking in the garden of their uncle. One arm was wound round her delicate waist, and with the other he clasped her soft and graceful hand. The heavy tears burst from her downcast eyes, and stole along her pale and pensive cheek. They walked in silence, the brother and the sister, before the purity of whose surpassing love even ambition vanished. He opened the lattice gate. They entered into the valley small and green; before them was the marble fountain with its columns and cupola, and in the distance the charger of Alroy and his single attendant.

They stopped, and Alroy gathered flowers, and placed them in the hair of Miriam. He would have softened the bitterness of parting with a smile. Gently he relaxed his embracing arm, almost insensibly he dropped her quivering hand.

'Sister of my soul,' he whispered, 'when we last parted here, I was a fugitive, and now I quit you a conqueror.'

She turned, she threw herself upon his neck, and buried her face in his breast.

'My Miriam, we shall meet at Bagdad.'

He beckoned to her distant maidens; they advanced, he delivered Miriam into their arms. He pressed her hand to his lips, and, rushing to his horse, mounted and disappeared.

A body of irregular cavalry feebly defended the pass of Kerrund. It was carried, with slight loss, by the vanguard of Scherirah, and the fugitives prepared the host of the caliph for the approach of the Hebrew army.

Upon the plain of the Tigris the enemy formed into battle array. The centre was commanded by Malek, the Grand Sultan of the Seljuks himself; the right wing, headed by the Sultan of Syria, was protected by the river; and the left, under the Sultan of Roum, was posted upon the advantageous position of some irregular and rising ground. Thus proud in the number, valour, discipline, and disposition of his forces, Malek awaited the conqueror of Persia.

The glittering columns of the Hebrews might even now be perceived defiling from the mountains, and forming at the extremity of the plain. Before nightfall the camp of the invaders was pitched within hearing of that of Malek. The moving lights in the respective tents might plainly be distinguished; and ever and anon the flourish of hostile music fell with an ominous sound upon the ears of the opposed foe-men. A few miles only separated those mighty hosts. Upon to-morrow depended, perhaps, the fortunes of ages. How awful is the eve of battle!

Alroy, attended by a few chieftains, personally visited the tents of the soldiery, promising them on the morrow a triumph, before which the victories of Nehauend and Nishapur would sink into insignificance. Their fiery and excited visages proved at once their courage and their faith. The sceptre of Solomon was paraded throughout the camp in solemn procession. On the summit of a huge tumulus, perhaps the sepulchre of some classic hero, Esther, the prophetess, surrounded by the chief zealots of the host, poured forth her exciting inspirations. It was a grand picture, that beautiful wild girl, the groups of stern, devoted warriors, the red flame of the watch-fires mixing with the silver shadows of the moon as they illumined the variegated turbans and gleaming armour of her votaries!

In the pavilion of Alroy, Jabaster consulted with his pupil on the conduct of the morrow.

'This is a different scene from the cavern of the Caucasus,' said Alroy, as the high priest rose to retire.

'It has one great resemblance, sire; the God of our fathers is with us.'

'Ay! the Lord of Hosts. Moses was a great man. There is no career except conquest.'

'You muse.'

'Of the past. The present is prepared. Too much thought will mar it.'

'The past is for wisdom, the present for action, but for joy the future. The feeling that the building of the temple is at hand, that the Lord's anointed will once again live in the house of David, absorbs my spirit; and, when I muse over our coming glory, in my fond ecstasy I almost lose the gravity that doth beseem my sacred office.'

'Jerusalem; I have seen it. How many hours to dawn?'

'Some three.'

''Tis strange I could sleep. I remember, on the eve of battle I was ever anxious. How is this, Jabaster?'

'Your faith, sire, is profound.'

'Yes, I have no fear. My destiny is not complete. Good night, Jabaster. See, Asriel, valiant priest. Pharez!'

'My lord!'

'Rouse me at the second watch. Good night, boy.'

'Good night, my lord.'

'Pharez! Be sure you rouse me at the second watch. Think you it wants three hours to dawn?'

'About three hours, my lord.'

'Well! at the second watch, remember; good night.'

'It is the second watch, my lord.'

'So soon! Have I slept? I feel fresh as an eagle. Call Scherirah, boy.'

''Tis strange I never dream now. Before my flight my sleep was ever troubled. Say what they like, man is made for action. My life is now harmonious, and sleep has now become what nature willed it, a solace, not a contest. Before, it was a struggle of dark passions and bright dreams, in whose creative fancy and fair vision my soul sought refuge from the dreary bale of daily reality.

'I will withdraw the curtains of my tent. O most majestic vision! And have I raised this host? Over the wide plain, far as my eye can range, their snowy tents studding the purple landscape, embattled legions gather round their flags to struggle for my fate. It is the agony of Asia.

'A year ago, upon this very spot, I laid me down to die, an unknown thing, or known and recognised only to be despised, and now the sultans of the world come forth to meet me. I have no fear. My destiny is not complete. And whither tends it? Let that power decide which hitherto has fashioned all my course.

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem! ever harping on Jerusalem. With all his lore, he is a narrow-minded zealot whose dreaming memory would fondly make a future like the past. O Bagdad, Bagdad, within thy glittering halls, there is a charm worth all his Cabala!

'Hah! Scherirah! The dawn is near at hand, the stars are still shining. The air is very pleasant. Tomorrow will be a great day, Scherirah, for Israel and for you. You lead the attack. A moment in my tent, my brave Scherirah!'

The dawn broke; a strong column of the Hebrews, commanded by Scherirah, poured down upon the centre of the army of the caliph. Another column, commanded by Jabaster, attacked the left wing, headed by the Sultan of Roum. No sooner had Alroy perceived that the onset of Scherirah had succeeded in penetrating the centre of the Turks, than he placed himself at the head of the Sacred Guard, and by an irresistible charge completed their disorder and confusion. The division of the Sultan of Syria, and a great part of the centre, were entirely routed and driven into the river, and the remainder of the division of Malek was effectually separated from his left wing.

But while to Alroy the victory seemed already decided, a far different fate awaited the division of Jabaster. The Sultan of Roum, posted in an extremely advantageous position, and commanding troops accustomed to the discipline of the Romans of Constantinople, received the onset of Jabaster without yielding, and not only repelled his attack, but finally made a charge which completely disordered and dispersed the column of the Hebrews. In vain Jabaster endeavoured to rally his troops, in vain he performed prodigies of valour, in vain he himself struck down the standard-bearer of the sultan, and once even penetrated to the pavilion of the monarch. His division was fairly routed. The eagerness of the Sultan of Roum to effect the annihilation of his antagonists prevented him from observing the forlorn condition of the Turkish centre. Had he, after routing the division of Jabaster, only attacked Alroy in the rear, the fortune of the day might have been widely different. As it was, the eagle eye of Alroy soon detected his inadvertence, and profited by his indiscretion. Leaving Ithamar to keep the centre in check, he charged the Sultan of Roum with the Sacred Guard, and afforded Jabaster an opportunity of rallying some part of his forces. The Sultan of Roum, perceiving that the day was lost by the ill-conduct of his colleagues, withdrew his troops, retreated in haste, but in good order to Bagdad, carried off the caliph, his harem, and some of his treasure, and effected his escape into Syria. In the meantime the discomfiture of the remaining Turkish army was complete. The Tigris was dyed with their blood, and the towns through which the river flowed were apprised of the triumph of Alroy by the floating corpses of his enemies. Thirty thousand Turks were slain in battle: among them the Sultans of Bagdad and Syria, and a vast number of atabeks, emirs, and chieftains. A whole division, finding themselves surrounded, surrendered on terms, and delivered up their arms. The camps and treasures of the three sultans were alike captured, and the troops that escaped so completely dispersed, that they did not attempt to rally, but, disbanded and desperate, prowled over and plundered the adjoining provinces. The loss of the division of Jabaster was also severe, but the rest of the army suffered little. Alroy himself was slightly wounded. The battle lasted barely three hours. Its results were immense. David Alroy was now master of the East.

The plain was covered with the corpses of men and horses, arms and standards, and prostrate tents. Returning from the pursuit of the Sultan of Roum, Alroy ordered the trumpets to sound to arms, and, covered with gore and dust, dismounted from his charger, and stood before the pavilion of Malek, leaning on his bloody scimitar, and surrounded by his victorious generals.

'Ah, Jabaster!' said the conqueror, giving his hand to the pontiff, ''twas well your troops had such a leader. No one but you could have rallied them.

You must drill your lads a little before they again meet the Cappadocian cavalry. Brave Scherirah, we shall not forget our charge. Asriel, tell the guard, from me, that the victory of the Tigris was owing to their scimitars. Ithamar, what are our freshest troops?'

'The legion of Aderbijan, sire.'

'How strong can they muster?'

'It counts twelve thousand men: we might collect two-thirds.'

'Valiant Ithamar, take the Aderbijans and a division of the guards, push on towards Bagdad, and summon the city. If his Sultanship of Roum offer battle, take up a position, and he shall quickly have his desire. For the present, after these hasty marches and sharp fighting, the troops must rest. I think he will not tarry. Summon the city, and say that if any resistance be offered, I will make it as desolate as old Babylon. Treat with no armed force. Where is the soldier that saved me a cracked skull; his name Benaiah?'

'I wait your bidding, sire.'

'You're a captain. Join the division of Ithamar, and win fresh laurels ere we meet again. Gentle Asriel, let your brother know our fortune.'

'Sire, several Tartars have already been despatched to Hamadan.'

''Tis well. Send another with these tablets to the Lady Miriam. Despatch the pavilion of Malek as a trophy for the town. Elnebar, Goliath of the Hebrews, you bore our sacred standard like a hero! How fares the prophetess? I saw her charging in our ranks, waving a sabre with her snowy arm, her long, dark hair streaming like a storm, from which her eyes flashed lightning.'

'The king bleeds,' said Jabaster.

'Slightly. It will do me service. I am somewhat feverish. A kingdom for a draught of water! And now for our wounded friends. Asriel, do you marshal the camp. It is the Sabbath eve.[62] Time presses.'

The dead were plundered, and thrown into the river, the encampment of the Hebrews completed. Alroy, with his principal officers, visited the wounded, and praised the valiant. The bustle which always succeeds a victory was increased in the present instance by the anxiety of the army to observe with grateful strictness the impending Sabbath.

When the sun set, the Sabbath was to commence. The undulating horizon rendered it difficult to ascertain the precise moment of the setting. The crimson orb sunk behind the purple mountains, the sky was flushed with a rich and rosy glow. Then might be perceived the zealots, proud in their Talmudical lore, holding a skein of white silk in their hands, and announcing the approach of the Sabbath by their observation of its shifting tints. While the skein was yet golden, the forge of the armourer still sounded, the fire of the cook still blazed, still the cavalry led their steeds to the river, and still the busy footmen braced up their tents and hammered at their palisades. The skein of silk became rosy, the armourer worked with renewed energy, the cook puffed with increased zeal, the horsemen scampered from the river, the footmen cast an anxious glance at the fading twilight.

The skein of silk became blue; a dim, dull, sepulchral, leaden tinge fell over its purity. The hum of gnats arose, the bat flew in circling whirls over the tents, horns sounded from all quarters, the sun had set, the Sabbath had commenced. 'The forge was mute, the fire extinguished, the prance of horses and the bustle of men in a moment ceased. A deep, a sudden, an all-pervading stillness dropped over that mighty host. It was night; the sacred lamp of the Sabbath sparkled in every tent of the camp, which vied in silence and in brilliancy with the mute and glowing heavens.

Morn came; the warriors assembled around the altar and the sacrifice. The high priest and his attendant Levites proclaimed the unity and the omnipotence of the God of Israel, and the sympathetic responses of his conquering and chosen people reechoed over the plain. They retired again to their tents, to listen to the expounding of the law; even the distance of a Sabbath walk was not to exceed that space which lies between Jerusalem and the Mourft of Olives. This was the distance between the temple and the tabernacle; it had been nicely measured, and every Hebrew who ventured forth from the camp this day might be observed counting the steps of a Sabbath-day's journey. At length the sun again set, and on a sudden fires blazed, voices sounded, men stirred, in the same enchanted and instantaneous manner that had characterised the stillness of the preceding eve. Shouts of laughter, bursts of music, announced the festivity of the coming night; supplies poured in from all the neighbouring villages, and soon the pious conquerors commemorated their late triumph in a round of banqueting.

On the morrow, a Tatar arrived from Ithamar, informing Alroy that the Sultan of Roum had retreated into Syria, that Bagdad was undefended, but that he had acceded to the request of the inhabitants that a deputation should wait upon Alroy before the troops entered the city, and had granted a safe conduct for their passage.

On the morrow, messengers announced the approach of the deputation. All the troops were under arms. Alroy directed that the suppliants should be conducted through the whole camp before they arrived at the royal pavilion, on each side of which the Sacred Guard was mustered in array. The curtains of his tent withdrawn displayed the conqueror himself, seated on a sumptuous divan. On his right hand stood Jabaster in his priestly robes, on his left Scherirah. Behind him, the giant Elnebar supported the sacred sceptre. A crowd of chieftains was ranged on each side of the pavilion.

Cymbals sounded, muffled kettle-drums, and the faint flourish of trumpets; the commencement of the procession might be detected in the long perspective of the tented avenue. First came a company of beauteous youths, walking two by two, and strewing flowers; then a band of musicians in flowing robes of cloth of gold, plaintively sounding their silver trumpets. After these followed slaves of all climes, bearing a tribute of the most rare and costly productions of their countries: Negroes with tusks and teeth of the elephant, plumes of ostrich feathers, and caskets of gold dust; Syrians with rich armour; Persians with vases of atar-gul, and Indians with panniers of pearls of Ormuz, and soft shawls of Cachemire. Encircled by his children, each of whom held alternately a white or fawn-coloured gazelle, an Arab clothed in his blue bornouz, led by a thick cord of crimson silk a tall and tawny giraffe. Fifty stout men succeeded two by two, carrying in company a silver shield laden with gold coin, or chased goblets studded with gems.

The clash of cymbals announced the presence of the robes of honour,[63] culled from the wardrobe of the commander of the Faithful; the silk of Aleppo and the brocade of Damascus, lined with the furs of the sable and the ermine, down from the breast of the swan, and the skins of white foxes.

After these followed two grey dromedaries, with furniture of silver, and many caparisoned horses, each led by a groom in rich attire. The last of these was a snow-white steed, upon whose front was the likeness of a ruby star, a courser of the sacred stud of Solomon, and crossed only by the descendants of the Prophet.

The muffled kettle-drums heralded the company of black eunuchs, with their scarlet vests and ivory battle-axes. They surrounded and shrouded from the vulgar gaze fourteen beautiful Circassian girls, whose brilliant visages and perfect forms were otherwise concealed by their long veils and ample drapery.

The gorgeous procession, as they approached the conqueror, bowed humbly to Alroy, and formed in order on each side of the broad avenue. The deputation appeared; twelve of the principal citizens of Bagdad, with folded arms, and downcast eyes, and disordered raiment. Meekly and mutely each touched the earth with his hand, and kissed it in token of submission, and then, moving aside, made way for the chief envoy and orator of the company, Honain!

Humbly, but gracefully, the physician of the caliph bowed before the conqueror of the East. His appearance and demeanour afforded a contrast to the aspect of his brother envoys; not less calm or contented his countenance, not less sumptuous or studied his attire, than when he first rescued Alroy in the bazaar of Bagdad from the grip of the false Abdallah.

He spoke, and every sound was hushed before the music of his voice.

'Conqueror of the world, that destiny with which it is in vain to struggle has placed our lives and fortunes in your power. Your slaves offer for your approbation specimens of their riches; not as tribute, for all is yours; but to show you the products of security and peace, and to induce you to believe that mercy may be a policy as profitable to the conqueror as to the conquered; that it may be better to preserve than to destroy; and wiser to enjoy than to extirpate.

'Fate ordained that we should be born the slaves of the caliph; that same fate has delivered his sceptre into your hands. We offer you the same devotion that we yielded to him, and we entreat the same protection which he granted to us.

'Whatever may be your decision, we must bow to your decree with the humility that recognises superior force. Yet we are not without hope. We cannot forget that it is our good fortune not to be addressing a barbarous chieftain, unable to sympathise with the claims of civilisation, the creations of art, and the finer impulses of humanity. We acknowledge your irresistible power, but we dare to hope everything from a prince whose genius all acknowledge and admire, who has spared some portion of his youth from the cares of government and the pursuits of arms to the ennobling claims of learning, whose morality has been moulded by a pure and sublime faith, and who draws his lineage from a sacred and celebrated race, the unrivalled antiquity of which even the Prophet acknowledges.'

He ceased: a buzz of approbation sounded throughout the pavilion, which was hushed instantly as the lips of the conqueror moved.

'Noble emir,' replied Alroy, 'return to Bagdad, and tell your fellow-subjects that the King of Israel grants protection to their persons, and security to their property.'

'And for their faith?' enquired the envoy, in a lower voice.

'Toleration,' replied Alroy, turning to Jabaster.

'Until further regulations,' added the high priest.

'Emir,' said Alroy, 'the person of the caliph will be respected.'

'May it please your highness,' replied Honain, 'the Sultan of Roum has retired with our late ruler.'

'And his harem?'

'And his harem.'

'It was needless. We war not with women.'

'Men, as well as women, must acknowledge the gracious mercy of your highness.'

'Benomi,' said Alroy, addressing himself to a young officer of the guard, 'command the guard of honour that will attend this noble emir on his return. We soldiers deal only in iron, sir, and cannot vie with the magnificence of Bagdad, yet wear this dagger for the donor's sake:' and Alroy held out to Honain a poniard flaming with gems.

The Envoy of Bagdad advanced, took the dagger, pressed it to his lips, and placed it in his vest.[64]

'Scherirah,' continued Alroy, 'this noble emir is your charge. See that a choice pavilion of the host be for his use, and that his train complain not of the rough customs of our camp.'

'May it please your highness,' replied Honain, 'I have fulfilled my office, and, with your gracious permission, would at once return. I have business only less urgent than the present, because it concerns myself.'

'As you will, noble emir. Benomi, to your post. Farewell, sir.'

The deputation advanced, bowed, and retired. Alroy turned to Jabaster.

'No common person that, Jabaster?'

'A very gracious Turk, sire.'

'Think you he is a Turk?'

'By his dress.'

'It may be so. Asriel, break up the camp. We'll march at once to Bagdad.'

The chiefs dispersed to make the necessary arrangements for the march. The news that the army was immediately to advance to Bagdad soon circulated throughout the camp, and excited the most lively enthusiasm. Every hand was at work, striking the tents, preparing the arms and horses. Alroy retired to his pavilion. The curtains were drawn. He was alone, and plunged in profound meditation.

'Alroy!' a voice sounded.

He started, and looked up. Before him stood Esther the prophetess.

'Esther! is it thou?'

'Alroy! enter not into Babylon.'

'Indeed.'

'As I live, the Lord hath spoken it. Enter not into Babylon.'

'Not enjoy my fairest conquest, maiden?'

'Enter not into Babylon.'

'What affrights thee?'

'Enter not into Babylon.'

'I shall surely change the fortunes of my life without a cause.'

'The Lord hath spoken. Is not that a cause?'

'I am the Lord's anointed. His warning has not reached me.'

'Now it reaches thee. Doth the king despise the prophetess of the Lord? It is the sin of Ahab.'

'Despise thee! Despise the mouth that is the herald of my victories! 'Twere rank blasphemy. Prophesy triumph, Esther, and Alroy will never doubt thy inspiration.'

'He doubts it now. I see he doubts it now. O my king, I say again, enter not into Babylon.'

'Beauteous maiden, those eyes flash lightning. Who can behold their wild and liquid glance, and doubt that Esther is inspired! Be calm, sweet girl, some dream disturbs thy fancy.'

'Alroy, Alroy, enter not into Babylon!'

'I have no fear, I bear a charmed life.'

'Ah me! he will not listen.' All is lost!'

'All is gained, my beautiful.'

'I would we were upon the Holy Mount, and gazing on the stars of sacred Zion.'

'Esther,' said Alroy, advancing, and gently taking her hand, 'the capital of the East will soon unfold its marvels to thy sight. Prepare thyself for wonders. Girl, we are no longer in the desert. Forget thy fitful fancies. Come, choose a husband from my generals, child, and I will give a kingdom for thy dower. I would gladly see a crown upon that imperial brow. It well deserves one.'

The prophetess turned her dark eyes full upon Alroy. What passed in her mind was neither evident nor expressed. She gazed intently upon the calm and inscrutable countenance of the conqueror, then flung away his hand, and rushed out of the pavilion.



CHAPTER VIII.

Bagdad and the Princess

THE waving of banners, the flourish of trumpets, the neighing of steeds, and the glitter of spears! On the distant horizon they gleam like the morning, when the gloom of the night shivers bright into day. Hark! the tramp of the foemen, like the tide of the ocean, flows onward and onward, and conquers the shore. From the brow of the mountain, like the rush of a river, the column defiling melts into the plain.

Warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord! The land wherein your fathers wept, and touched their plaintive psalteries; the haughty city where your sires bewailed their cold and distant hearths; your steeds are prancing on its plain, and you shall fill its palaces. Warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord!

March, onward march, ye valiant tribes, the hour has come, the hour has come! All the promises of ages, all the signs of sacred sages, meet in this ravishing hour. Where is now the oppressor's chariot, where your tyrant's purple robe? The horse and the rider are both overthrown, the horse and the rider are both overthrown!

Rise, Rachel, from thy wilderness, arise, and weep no more. No more thy lonely palm-tree's shade need shroud thy secret sorrowing. The Lord hath heard the widow's sigh, the Lord hath stilled the widow's tear. Be comforted, be comforted, thy children live again!

Yes! yes! upon the bounding plain fleet Asriel glances like a star, and stout Scherirah shakes his spear by stern Jabaster's scimitar. And He is there, the chosen one, hymned by prophetic harps, whose life is like the morning dew on Zion's holy hill: the chosen one, the chosen one, that leads his race to victory; warriors of Judah! holy men that battle for the Lord!

They come, they come, they come!

The ramparts of the city were crowded with the inhabitants, the river sparkled with ten thousand boats, the bazaars were shut, the streets lined with the populace, and the terrace of every house covered with spectators. In the morning, Ithamar had entered with his division and garrisoned the city. And now the vanguard of the Hebrew army, after having been long distinguished in the distance, approached the walls. A large body of cavalry dashed forward at full speed from the main force. Upon a milk-white charger, and followed by a glittering train of warriors, amid the shouts of the vast multitude, Alroy galloped up to the gates.

He was received by Ithamar and the members of the deputation, but Honain was not there. Accompanied by his staff and a strong detachment of the Sacred Guard, Alroy was conducted through the principal thoroughfares of the city, until he arrived at the chief entrance of the serail, or palace, of the caliph. The vast portal conducted him into a large quadrangular court, where he dismounted, and where he was welcomed by the captain of the eunuch guard. Accompanied by his principal generals and his immediate attendants, Alroy was then ushered through a suite of apartments which reminded him of his visit with Honain, until he arrived at the grand council-chamber of the caliphs.

The conqueror threw himself upon the gorgeous divan of the commander of the Faithful.

'An easy seat after a long march,' said Alroy, as he touched with his lips the coffee, which the chief of the eunuchs presented to him in a cup of transparent pink porcelain, studded with pearls.[65] 'Itha-mar, now for your report. What is the temper of the city? Where is his Sultanship of Roum?'

'The city, sire, is calm, and I believe content. The sultan and the caliph are still hovering on the borders of the province.'

'So I supposed. Scherirah will settle that. Let the troops be encamped without the walls, the garrison, ten thousand strong, must be changed monthly. Ithamar, you are governor of the city: Asriel commands the forces. Worthy Jabaster, draw up a report of the civil affairs of the capital. Your quarters are the College of the Dervishes. Brave Scherirah, I cannot afford you a long rest. In three days you must have crossed the river with your division. It will be quick work. I foresee that they will not fight. Meet me all here in council by to-morrow's noon. Farewell.'

The chieftains retired, the high priest lingered.

'Were it not an intrusion, sire, I would fain entreat a moment's audience.'

'My own Jabaster, you have but to speak.'

'Sire, I would speak of Abidan, as valiant a warrior as any in the host. It grieves me much, that by some fatality, his services seem ever overlooked.'

'Abidan! I know him well, a valiant man, but a dreamer, a dreamer.'

'A dreamer, sire! Believe me, a true son of Israel, and one whose faith is deep.'

'Good Jabaster, we are all true sons of Israel. Yet let me have men about me who see no visions in a mid-day sun. We must beware of dreamers.'

'Dreams are the oracles of God.'

'When God sends them. Very true, Jabaster. But this Abidan and the company with whom he consorts are filled with high-flown notions, caught from old traditions, which, if acted on, would render government impracticable; in a word, they are dangerous men.'

'The very flower of Israel! Some one has poisoned your sacred ear against them.'

'No one, worthy Jabaster. I have no counsellor except yourself. They may be the flower of Israel, but they are not the fruit. Good warriors, bad subjects: excellent means, by which we may accomplish greater ends. I'll have no dreamers in authority. I must have practical men about me, practical men. See how Abner, Asriel, Ithamar, Medad, see how these conform to what surrounds them, yet invincible captains, invincible captains. But then they are practical men, Jabaster; they have eyes and use them. They know the difference of times and seasons. But this Abidan, he has no other thought but the rebuilding of the temple: a narrow-souled bigot, who would sacrifice the essence to the form. The rising temple soon would fall again with such constructors. Why, sir, what think you, this same Abidan preached in the camp against my entry into what the quaint fanatic chooses to call "Babylon," because he had seen what he calls a vision.'

'There was a time your Majesty thought not so ill of visions.'

'Am I Abidan, sir? Are other men to mould their conduct or their thoughts by me? In this world I stand alone, a being of a different order from yourselves, incomprehensible even to you. Let this matter cease. I'll hear no more and have heard too much. To-morrow at council.'

The high priest withdrew in silence.

'He is gone; at length I am alone. I cannot bear the presence of these men, except in action. Their words, even their looks, disturb the still creation of my brooding thought. I am once more alone, and loneliness hath been the cradle of my empire. Now I do feel inspired. There needs no mummery now to work a marvel.

'The sceptre of Solomon! It may be so. What then? Here's now the sceptre of Alroy. What's that without his mind? The legend said that none should free our people but he who bore the sceptre of great Solomon. The legend knew that none could gain that sceptre, but with a mind to whose supreme volition the fortunes of the world would bow like fate. I gained it; I confronted the spectre monarchs in their sepulchre; and the same hand that grasped their shadowy rule hath seized the diadem of the mighty caliphs by the broad rushing of their imperial river.

'The world is mine: and shall I yield the prize, the universal and heroic prize, to realise the dull tradition of some dreaming priest, and consecrate a legend? He conquered Asia, and he built the temple. Are these my annals? Shall this quick blaze of empire sink to a glimmering and a twilight sway over some petty province, the decent patriarch of a pastoral horde? Is the Lord of Hosts so slight a God, that we must place a barrier to His sovereignty, and fix the boundaries of Omnipotence between the Jordan and the Lebanon? It is not thus written; and were it so, I'll pit my inspiration against the prescience of my ancestors. I also am a prophet, and Bagdad shall be my Zion. The daughter of the Voice! Well, I am clearly summoned. I am the Lord's servant, not Jabaster's. Let me make His worship universal as His power; and where's the priest shall dare impugn my faith, because His altars smoke on other hills than those of Judah?

'I must see Honain. That man has a great mind. He alone can comprehend my purpose. Universal empire must not be founded on sectarian prejudices and exclusive rights. Jabaster would massacre the Moslemin like Amalek; the Moslemin, the vast majority, and most valuable portion, of my subjects. He would depopulate my empire, that it might not be said that Ishmael shared the heritage of Israel. Fanatic! I'll send him to conquer Judah. We must conciliate. Something must be done to bind the conquered to our conquering fortunes. That bold Sultan of Roum: I wish Abner had opposed him. To run off with the harem! I have half a mind to place myself at the head of the pursuing force, and—— Passion and policy alike combine: and yet Honain is the man; I might send him on a mission. Could we make terms? I detest treaties. My fancy flies from all other topics. I must see him. Could I but tell him all I think! This door, whither leads it? Hah! methinks I do remember yon glittering gallery! No one in attendance. The discipline of our palace is somewhat lax. My warriors are no courtiers. What an admirable marshal of the palace Honain would make! Silence everywhere. So! 'tis well. These saloons I have clearly passed through before. Could I but reach the private portal by the river side, unseen or undetected! 'Tis not impossible. Here are many dresses. I will disguise myself. Trusty scimitar, thou hast done thy duty, rest awhile. 'Tis lucky I am beardless. I shall make a capital eunuch. So! a handsome robe. One dagger for a pinch, slippers powdered with pearls,66 a caftan of cloth of gold, a Cachemire girdle, and a pelisse of sables. One glance at the mirror. Good! I begin to look like the conqueror of the world!'

It was twilight: a small and solitary boat, with a single rower, glided along the Tigris, and stopped at the archway of a house that descended into the river. It stopped, the boatman withdrew the curtains, and his single passenger disembarked, and ascended the stairs of the archway.

The stranger reached the landing-place, and unfastening a golden grate, proceeded along a gallery, and entered a beautiful saloon of white and green marble, opening into gardens. No one was in the apartment; the stranger threw himself upon a silver couch, placed at the side of a fountain that rose from the centre of the chamber and fell into a porphyry basin. A soft whisper roused the stranger from his reverie, a soft whisper that faintly uttered the word 'Honain.' The stranger looked up, a figure, enveloped in a veil, that touched the ground, advanced from the gardens.

'Honain!' said the advancing figure, throwing off the veil. 'Honain! Ah! the beautiful mute returned!'

A woman more lovely than the rosy morn, beheld an unexpected guest. They stood, the lady and the stranger, gazing on each other in silence. A man, with a light, entered the extremity of the hall. Carefully he closed the portal, slowly he advanced, with a subdued step; he approached the lady and the stranger.

'Alroy!' said the astonished Honain, the light fell from his hand.

'Alroy!' exclaimed the lady, with a bewildered air: she turned pale, and leant against a column.

'Daughter of the caliph!' said the leader of Israel; and he advanced, and fell upon his knee, and stole her passive hand. 'I am indeed that Alroy to whom destiny has delivered the empire of thy sire; but the Princess Schirene can have nothing to fear from one who values above all his victories this memorial of her goodwill;' and he took from his breast a rosary of pearls and emeralds, and, rising slowly, left it in her trembling hand.

The princess turned and hid her face in her arm, which reclined against the column.

'My kind Honain,' said Alroy, 'you thought me forgetful of the past; you thought me ungrateful. My presence here proves that I am not so. I come to enquire all your wishes. I come to gratify and to fulfil them, if that be in my power.'

'Sire,' replied Honain, who had recovered from the emotion in which he rarely indulged, and from the surprise which seldom entrapped him, 'Sire, my wishes are slight. You see before you the daughter of my master. An interview, for which I fear I shall not easily gain that lady's pardon, has made you somewhat acquainted with her situation and her sentiments. The Princess Schirene seized the opportunity of the late convulsions to escape from a mode of life long repugnant to all her feelings, and from a destiny at which she trembled. I was her only counsellor, and she may feel assured, a faithful, although perhaps an indiscreet one. The irresistible solicitation of the inhabitants that I should become their deputy to their conqueror prevented us from escaping as we had intended. Since then, from the movement of the troops, I have deemed it more prudent that we should remain at present here, although I have circulated the intelligence of my departure. In the kiosk of my garden, the princess is now a willing prisoner. At twilight she steals forth for the poor relaxation of my society, to listen to the intelligence which I acquire during the day in disguise. The history, sire, is short and simple. We are in your power: but instead of deprecating your interference, I now solicit your protection.'

'Dear Honain, 'tis needless. The Princess Schirene has only to express a wish that it may be fulfilled. I came to speak with you on weighty matters, Honain, but I retire, for I am an intruder now. Tomorrow, if it please you, at this hour, and in this disguise, I will again repair hither. In the meantime, this lady may perchance express to you her wishes, and you will bear them to me. If an escort to any country, if any palace or province for her rule and residence—— But I will not offer to one who should command. Lady! farewell. Pardon the past! Tomorrow, good Honain! prythee let us meet. Good even!'

'The royal brow was clouded,' said Ithamar to Asriel, as, departing from the council, they entered their magnificent barque.

'With thought; he has so much upon his mind, 'tis wondrous how he bears himself.'

'I have seen him gay on the eve of battle, and lively though calm, with weightier matters than now oppress him. His brow was clouded, but not, me-thinks, with thought; one might rather say with temper. Mark you, how he rated Jabaster?'

'Roundly! The stern priest writhed under it; and as he signed the ordinance, shivered his reed in rage. I never saw a man more pale.'

'Or more silent. He looked like an embodied storm. I tell you what, Asriel, that stern priest loves not us.'

'Have you just discovered that secret, Ithamar? We are not of his school. Nor, in good faith, is our ruler. I am glad to see the king is so staunch about Abidan. Were he in council he would support Jabaster.'

'Oh! his mere tool. What think you of Scherirah?'

'I would not trust him. As long as there is fighting, he will meddle with nothing else; but, mark my words, Ithamar: in quiet times he will support the priest.'

'Medad will have a place in council. He is with us.'

'Heart and soul. I would your brother were here, Asriel: he alone could balance Jabaster. Alroy loves your brother like himself. Is it true that he marries the Lady Miriam?'

'So the king wishes. 'Twill be a fine match for Abner.'

'The world is all before us. I wonder who will be viceroy of Syria.'

'When we conquer it. Not Scherirah. Mark my words, Ithamar: he never will have a government. You or I perchance. For my own part, I would rather remain as I am.'

'Yours is a good post; the best.'

'With the command of the city. It should go with the guard.'

'Well, then, help me in getting Syria, and you can ask for my command.'

'Agreed. Jabaster will have it that, in a Hebrew monarchy, the chief priest is in fact the grand vizir.'

'Alroy will be his own minister.'

'I am not so sure of that. He may choose to command the Syrian expedition in person; he must leave some head at Bagdad. Jabaster is no general.'

'Oh! none at all. Alroy will be glad to leave him at home. The Sultan of Roum may not be always so merciful.'

'Hah! hah! that was an escape!'

'By heavens! I thought it was all over. You made a fine charge.'

'I shall never forget it. I nearly ran over Jabaster.'

'Would that you had!'

It is the tender twilight hour when maidens in their lonely bower sigh softer than the eve! The languid rose her head upraises, and listens to the nightingale, while his wild and thrilling praises from his trembling bosom gush: the languid rose her head upraises, and listens with a blush.

In the clear and rosy air, sparkling with a single star, the sharp and spiry cypress-tree rises like a gloomy thought, amid the flow of revelry. A singing bird, a single star, a solemn tree, an odorous flower, are dangerous in the tender hour, when maidens in their twilight bower sigh softer than the eve!

The daughter of the caliph comes forth to breathe the air: her lute her only company. She sits her down by a fountain's side, and gazes on the waterfall. Her cheek reclines upon her arm, like fruit upon a graceful bough. Very pensive is the face of that bright and beauteous lady. She starts; a warm voluptuous lip presses her soft and idle hand. It is her own gazelle. With his large and lustrous eyes, more eloquent than many a tongue, the fond attendant mutely asks the cause of all her thoughtfulness.

'Ah! bright gazelle! Ah! bright gazelle!' the princess cried, the princess cried; 'thy lips are softer than the swan, thy lips are softer than the swan; but his breathed passion when they pressed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!

'Ah! bright gazelle! Ah! bright gazelle!' the princess cried, the princess cried; 'thine eyes are like the stars of night, thine eyes are like the stars of night; but his glanced passion when they gazed, my bright gazelle! my bright gazelle!'

She seized her lute, she wildly threw her fingers o'er its thrilling strings, and, gazing on the rosy sky, to borrow all its poetry, thus, thus she sang—thus, thus she sang:

He rose in beauty like the morn That brightens in bur Syrian skies; Dark passion glittered in his eyes, And Empire sparkled in his form!

My soul! thou art the dusky earth, On which his sunlight fell; The dusky earth, that dim no longer, Now breathes with light, now beams with love!

He rose in beauty, like the morn That brightens in our Syrian skies; Dark passion glittered in his eyes, And Empire sparkled in his form!



'Once more, once more! Ah! sing that strain once more!'

The princess started and looked round. Before her stood Alroy. She rose, she would have retired; but, advancing, the conqueror stole her hand.

'Fair princess,' said Alroy, 'let it not be said that my presence banished at once beauty and music.'

'Sire, I doubt not that Honain awaits you. Let me summon him.'

'Lady, it is not with Honain that I would speak.'

He seated himself by her side. His countenance was pale, his heart trembled.

'This garden,' at length he observed in a low voice, 'this garden, a brief, brief space has glided away since first I wandered within its beauteous limits, and yet those days seem like the distant memory of another life.'

'It is another life,' said the princess. 'Ourselves, the world, all forms and usages, all feelings and all habits, verily they have changed, as if we had breathed within another sphere.'

''Tis a great change.'

'Since first you visited my bright kiosk. Pretty bauble! I pray it may be spared.'

'It is sacred, like yourself.'

'You are a courteous conqueror.'

'I am no conqueror, fair Schirene, but a slave more lowly than when I first bowed humbly in your presence.'

'And bore away a token not forgotten. Your rosary is here.'

'Let me claim it. It has been my consolation in much peril, beauteous lady. On the eve of battle I wound it round my heart.'

She held forth the rosary, and turned away her head. Her hand remained in his; he pressed it to his lips. His right arm retained her hand; he wound the other round her waist, as he fell upon his knee.

'O beautiful! O more than beautiful! for thou to me art like a dream unbroken,' exclaimed the young leader of Israel, 'let me, let me breathe my adoration. I offer thee not empire: I offer thee not wealth; I offer thee not all the boundless gratification of magnificent fancy,—these may be thine, but all these thou hast proved; but, if the passionate affections of a spirit which never has yielded to the power of woman or the might of man, if the deep devotion of the soul of Alroy, be deemed an offering meet for the shrine of thy surpassing loveliness, I worship thee, Schirene. I worship thee, I worship thee!

'Since I first gazed upon thee, since thy beauty first rose upon my presence like a star bright with my destiny, in the still sanctuary of my secret love, thy idol has ever rested. Then, then, I was a thing whose very touch thy creed might count a contumely. I have avenged the insults of long centuries in the best blood of Asia; I have returned, in glory and in pride, to claim my ancient sceptre; but sweeter far than vengeance, sweeter far than the quick gathering of my sacred tribes, the rush of triumph and the blaze of empire, is this brief moment of adoring love, wherein I pour the passion of my life!

'O my soul, my life, my very being! thou art silent, but thy silence is sweeter than others' speech. Yield, yield thee, dear Schirene, yield to thy suppliant! Thy faith, thy father's faith, thy native customs, these, these shall be respected, beauteous lady! Pharaoh's daughter yielded her dusky beauty to my great ancestor. Thy face is like the bright inspiring day! Let it not be said that the daughter of the Nile shared Israel's crown, the daughter of the Tigris spurned our sceptre. I am not Solomon, but I am one that, were Schirene the partner of my throne, would make his glowing annals read like a wearisome and misty tale to our surpassing lustre!'

He ceased, the princess turned her hitherto hidden countenance, and bowed it on his heart. 'O Alroy!' she exclaimed, 'I have no creed, no country, no life, but thee!'

'The king is late to-day.'

'Is it true, Asriel, there is an express from Hamadan?'

'Of no moment, Ithamar. I have private letters from Abner. All is quiet.'

''Tis much past the hour. When do you depart, Scherirah?'

'The troops are ready. I wait orders. This morning's council will perchance decide.'

'This morning's council is devoted to the settlement of the civil affairs of the capital,' remarked Jabaster.

'Indeed!' said Asriel. 'Is your report prepared, Jabaster?'

''Tis here,' replied the high priest. 'The Hebrew legislator requires but little musing to shape his order. He has a model which time cannot destroy, nor thought improve.'

Ithamar and Asriel exchanged significant glances. Scherirah looked solemn. There was a pause, which was broken by Asriel.

''Tis a noble city, this Bagdad. I have not yet visited your quarters, Jabaster. You are well placed.'

'As it may be. I hope we shall not tarry here long. The great point is still not achieved.'

'How far is it to the holy city?' enquired Scherirah.

'A month's march,' replied Jabaster.

'And when you get there?' enquired Ithamar.

'You may fight with the Franks,' replied Asriel.

'Jabaster, how large is Jerusalem?' enquired Ithamar. 'Is it true, as I have sometimes heard, that it is not bigger than the serail here, gardens and all?'

'Its glory hath departed,' replied the high priest; 'the bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with marble; and Zion, that is now without the Christian walls, shall yet sparkle, as in the olden time, with palaces and pavilions.'

A flourish of trumpets, the portals flew open, and Alroy entered, leaning on the arm of the Envoy of Bagdad.

'Valiant leaders,' said Alroy to the astonished chieftains, 'in this noble stranger, you see one like yourselves entrusted with my unbounded confidence. Jabaster, behold thy brother!'

'Honain! art thou Honain?' exclaimed the pontiff starting from his seat. 'I have a thousand messengers after thee.' With a countenance alternately pallid with surprise and burning with affection, Jabaster embraced his brother, and, overpowered with emotion, hid his face on his shoulder.

'Sire,' at length exclaimed the high priest, in a low and tremulous voice, 'I must pray your pardon that for an instant in this character I have indulged in any other thoughts than those that may concern your welfare. Tis past: and you, who know all, will forgive me.'

'All that respects Jabaster must concern my welfare. He is the pillar of my empire;' and holding forth his hand, Alroy placed the high priest on his right. 'Scherirah, you depart this eve.'

The rough captain bowed in silence.

'What is this?' continued Alroy, as Jabaster offered him a scroll. 'Ah! your report. "Order of the Tribes," "Service of the Levites," "Princes of the People," "Elders of Israel!" The day may come when this may be effected. At present, Jabaster, we must be moderate, and content ourselves with arrangements which may ensure that order shall be maintained, property respected, and justice administered. Is it true that a gang has rifled a mosque?'

'Sire! of that I would speak. They are no plunderers, but men, perhaps too zealous, who have read and who have remembered that "Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess, served their gods upon the high mountains, and upon the hill, and under every green tree. And ye shall overthrow their altars, and——"'

'Jabaster, is this a synagogue? Come I to a council of valiant statesmen or dreaming Rabbis? For a thousand years we have been quoting the laws we dared not practise. Is it with such aid that we captured Nishapur and crossed the Tigris? Valiant, wise Jabaster, thou art worthy of better things, and capable of all. I entreat thee, urge such matters for the last time. Are these fellows in custody?'

'They were in custody. I have freed them.'

'Freed them! Hang them! Hang them in the most public grove. Is this the way to make the Moslem a duteous subject? Jabaster! Israel honours thee; and I, its chief, know that one more true, more valiant, or more learned, crowds not around our standard; but I see, the caverns of the Caucasus are not a school for empire.'

'Sire, I had humbly deemed the school for empire was the law of Moses.'

'Ay! adapted to these times.'

'Can aught divine be changed?'

'Am I as tall as Adam? If man, the crown, the rose of all this fair creation, the most divine of all divine inventions, if Time have altered even this choicest of all godlike works, why shall it spare a law made but to rule his conduct? Good Jabaster, we must establish the throne of Israel, that is my mission, and for the means, no matter how, or where. Asriel, what news of Medad?'

'All is quiet between the Tigris and Euphrates. It would be better to recall his division, which has been much harassed. I thought of relieving him by Abidan.'

'I think so, too. We may as well keep Abidan out of the city. If the truth were known, I'll wager some of his company plundered the mosque. We must issue a proclamation on that subject. My good Jabaster, we'll talk over these matters alone. At present I will leave you with your brother. Scherirah, sup with me to-night; before you quit Asriel, come with me to my cabinet.'

'I must see the king!'

'Holy priest, his highness has retired. It is impossible.'

'I must see the king. Worthy Pharez, I take all peril on myself.'

'Indeed his highness' orders are imperative. You cannot see him.'

'Knowest thou who I am?'

'One whom all pious Hebrews reverence.'

'I say I must see the king.'

'Indeed, indeed, holy Jabaster, it cannot be.'

'Shall Israel perish for a menial's place? Go to; I will see him.'

'Nay! if you will, I'll struggle for my duty.'

'Touch not the Lord's anointed. Dog, you shall suffer for this!'

So saying, Jabaster threw aside Pharez, and, with the attendant clinging to his robes, rushed into the royal chamber.

'What is all this?' exclaimed Alroy, starting from the divan. 'Jabaster! Pharez, withdraw! How now, is Bagdad in insurrection?'

'Worse, much worse, Israel soon will be.'

'Ay!'

'My fatal brother has told me all, nor would I sleep, until I lifted up my voice to save thee.'

'Am I in danger?'

'In the wilderness, when the broad desert quivered beneath thy trembling feet, and the dark heavens poured down their burning torrents, thou wert less so. In that hour of death, One guarded thee, who never forgets His fond and faithful offspring, and now, when He has brought thee out of the house of bondage; now, when thy fortunes, like a noble cedar, swell in the air and shadow all the land; thou, the very leader of His people, His chosen one, for whom He hath worked such marvels, thy heart is turned from thy fathers' God, and hankers after strange abominations.'

Through the broad arch that led into the gardens of the serail, the moonlight fell upon the tall figure and the upraised arm of the priest; Alroy stood with folded arms at some distance, watching Jabaster as he spoke, with a calm but searching glance. Suddenly he advanced with a quick step, and, placing his hand upon Jabaster's arm, said, in a low, enquiring tone, 'You are speaking of this marriage?'

'Of that which ruined Solomon.'

'Listen to me, Jabaster,' said Alroy, interrupting him, in a calm but peremptory tone, 'I cannot forget that I am speaking to my master, as well as to my friend. The Lord, who knoweth all things, hath deemed me worthy of His mission. My fitness for this high and holy office was not admitted without proof. A lineage, which none else could offer, mystic studies shared by few, a mind that dared encounter all things, and a frame that could endure most, these were my claims. But no more of this. I have passed the great ordeal; the Lord of Hosts hath found me not unworthy of His charge; I have established His ancient people; His altars blaze with sacrifices; His priests are honoured, bear witness thou, Jabaster, His omnipotent unity is declared. What wouldst thou more?'

'All!'

'Then Moses knew you well. It is a stiff-necked people.'

'Sire, bear with me. If I speak in heat, I speak in zeal. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, a national existence, which we have not. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Land of Promise. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, Jerusalem. You ask me what I wish: my answer is, the Temple, all we have forfeited, all we have yearned after, all for which we have fought, our beauteous country, our holy creed, our simple manners, and our ancient customs.'

'Manners change with time and circumstances; customs may be observed everywhere. The ephod on thy breast proves our faith; and, for a country, is the Tigris less than Siloah, or the Euphrates inferior to the Jordan?'

'Alas! alas! there was a glorious prime when Israel stood aloof from other nations, a fair and holy thing that God had hallowed. We were then a chosen family, a most peculiar people, set apart for God's entire enjoyment. All about us was solemn, deep, and holy. We shunned the stranger as an unclean thing that must defile our solitary sanctity, and, keeping to ourselves and to our God, our lives flowed on in one great solemn tide of deep religion, making the meanest of our multitude feel greater than the kings of other lands. It was a glorious time: I thought it had returned; but I awake from this, as other dreams.'

'We must leave off dreaming, good Jabaster, we must act. Were I, by any chance, to fall into one of those reveries, with which I have often lost the golden hours at Hamadan, or in our old cave, I should hear, some fine morning, his Sultanship of Roum rattling at my gates.' Alroy smiled as he spoke; he would willingly have introduced a lighter tone into the dialogue, but the solemn countenance of the priest was not sympathetic with his levity.

'My heart is full, and yet I cannot speak: the memory of the past overpowers my thought. I had vainly deemed that my voice, inspired by the soul of truth, might yet preserve him; and now I stand here in his presence, silent and trembling, like a guilty thing. O, my prince! my pupil!' said the priest, advancing, falling on his knee, and seizing the robe of Alroy, 'by thy sacred lineage; by the sweet memory of thy ardent youth, and our united studies, by all thy zealous thoughts, and solemn musings, and glorious aspirations after fame; by all thy sufferings, and by all thy triumphs, and chiefly by the name of that great God, who hath elected thee his favoured child; by all the marvels of thy mighty mission, I do adjure thee! Arise, Alroy, arise and rouse thyself. The lure that snared thy fathers may trap thee, this Delilah may shear thy mystic locks. Spirits like thee act not by halves. Once fall out from the straight course before thee, and, though thou deemest 'tis but to saunter 'mid the summer trees, soon thou wilt find thyself in the dark depths of some infernal forest, where none may rescue thee!'

'What if I do inherit the eager blood of my great ancestor, at least I hold his sceptre. Shall aught of earthly power prevail against the supernatural sway of Heaven and Hades?'

'Sire, sire, the legend that came from Sinai is full of high instruction. But shape thy conduct by its oracles, and all were well. It says our people can be established only by him who rules them with the rod of Solomon. Sire, when the Lord offered his pleasure to that mighty king, thou knowest his deep discretion. Riches and length of days, empire and vengeance, these were not the choice of one to whom all accidents were proffered. The legend bears an inward spirit, as well as an outward meaning. The capture of the prize was a wise test of thy imperial fitness. Thou hast his sceptre, but, without his wisdom, 'tis but a staff of cedar.'

'Hah! Art thou there? I am glad to see Jabaster politic. Hear me, my friend. What my feelings be unto this royal lady, but little matters. Let them pass, and let us view this question by the light wherein you have placed it, the flame of policy and not of passion. I am no traitor to the God of Israel, in whose name I have conquered, and in whose name I shall rule; but thou art a learned doctor, thou canst inform us. I have heard no mandate to yield my glorious empire for my meanest province. I am Lord of Asia, so would I have my long posterity. Our people are but a remnant, a feeble fraction of the teeming millions that own my sway. What I hold I can defend; but my children may not inherit the spirit of their sire. The Moslemin will recognise their rule with readier hearts, when they remember that a daughter of their caliphs gave them life. You see I too am politic, my good Jabaster!'

'The policy of the son of Kareah[67], 'twas fatal. He preferred Egypt to Judah, and he suffered. Sire, the Lord hath blessed Judah: it is His land. He would have it filled by His peculiar people, so that His worship might ever flourish. For this He has, by many curious rites and customs, marked us out from all other nations, so that we cannot, at the same time, mingle with them and yet be true to Him. We must exist alone. To preserve that loneliness is the great end and essence of our law. What have we to do with Bagdad, or its people, where every instant we must witness some violation of our statutes? Can we pray with them? Can we eat with them? Alike in the highest duties, and the lowest occupations of existence, we cannot mingle. From the altar of our God to our domestic boards, we are alike separated from them. Sire, you may be King of Bagdad, but you cannot, at the same time, be a Jew.'

'I am what I am. I worship the Lord of Hosts. Perhaps, in His mercy, He will accept the days of Nishapur and the Tigris as a compensation for some slight relaxation in the ritual of the baker and the bath.'

'And mark my words: it was by the ritual of the baker and the bath that Alroy rose, and without it he will fall. The genius of the people, which he shared, raised him; and that genius has been formed by the law of Moses. Based on that law, he might indeed have handed down an empire to his long posterity; and now, though the tree of his fortunes seems springing up by the water-side, fed by a thousand springs, and its branches covered with dew, there is a gangrene in the sap, and to-morrow he may shrink like a shrivelled gourd. Alas! alas! for Israel! We have long fed on mallows; but to lose the vintage in the very day of fruition, 'tis very bitter. Ah! when I raised thy exhausted form in the cavern of Genthesma, and the star of David beamed brightly in the glowing heavens upon thy high fulfilment, who could have dreamed of a night like this? Farewell, sire.'

'Stop, Jabaster! earliest, dearest friend, prythee, prythee stop!'

The priest slowly turned, the prince hesitated.

'Part not in anger, good Jabaster.'

'In sorrow, sire, only in sorrow; but deep and terrible.'

'Israel is Lord of Asia, my Jabaster. Why should we fear?'

'Solomon built Tadmor in the wilderness, and his fleet brought gold from Ophir; and yet Alroy was born a slave.'

'But did not die one. The sultans of the world have fallen before me. I have no fear. Nay, do not go. At least you will give some credence to the stars, my learned Cabalist. See, my planet shines as brightly as my fortunes.' Alroy withdrew the curtain, and with Jabaster stepped out upon the terrace. A beautiful star glittered on high. As they gazed, its colour changed, and a blood-red meteor burst from its circle, and fell into space. The conqueror and the priest looked at each other at the same time. Their countenances were pale, enquiring, and agitated.

'Sire,' said Jabaster, 'march to Judah.'

'It portends war,' replied Alroy, endeavouring to recover himself. 'Perchance some troubles in Persia.'

'Troubles at home, no other. The danger is nigh. Look to thyself.'

A wild scream was heard in the gardens. It sounded thrice.

'What is this?' exclaimed Alroy, really agitated. 'Rouse the guard, Jabaster, search the gardens.'

''Tis useless and may do harm. It was a spirit that shrieked.'

'What said it?'

'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin!'

'The old story, the priest against the king,' said Honain to Alroy, when at his morrow's interview, he had listened to the events of the preceding night. 'My pious brother wishes to lead you back to the Theocracy, and is fearful that, if he prays at Bagdad instead of Zion, he may chance to become only the head of an inferior sect, instead of revelling in the universal tithes of a whole nation. As for the meteor, Scherirah must have crossed the river about the same time, and the Sultan of Roum may explain the bloody portent. For the shriek, as I really have no acquaintance with spirits, I must leave the miraculous communication to the favoured ears and initiated intelligences of your highness and my brother. It seems that it differed from "the Daughter of the Voice" in more respects than one, since it was not only extremely noisy, but, as it would appear, quite unintelligible except to the individual who had an interest in the interpretation, an ingenious one, I confess. When I enter upon my functions as your highness's chamberlain, I will at least guarantee that your slumbers shall not be disturbed either by spirits or more unwelcome visitors.'

'Enter upon them at once, good Honain. How fares my Persian rose to-day, my sweet Schirene?'

'Feeding on your image in your absence. She spares no word to me, I do assure your highness.'

'Nay, nay, we know you are a general favourite with the sex, Honain. I'faith I'm jealous.'

'I would your highness had cause,' said Honain, demurely.

The approaching marriage between the King of the Hebrews and the Princess of Bagdad was published throughout Asia. Preparations were made on the plain of the Tigris for the great rejoicing. Whole forests were felled to provide materials for the buildings and fuel for the banqueting. All the governors of provinces and cities, all the chief officers and nobility of both nations, were specially invited, and daily arrived in state at Bagdad. Among them the Viceroy of the Medes and Persians, and his recent bride, the Princess Miriam, were conspicuous, followed by a train of nearly ten thousand persons.

A throne, ascended by one hundred steps covered with crimson cloth, and crowned by a golden canopy, was raised in the middle of the plain; on each side was a throne less elevated, but equally gorgeous. In the front of these thrones an immense circus was described, formed by one hundred chartaks or amphitheatres, ample room for the admittance of the multitude being left between the buildings. These chartaks were covered with bright brocades and showy carpets; on each was hoisted a brilliant banner. In some of them were bands of choice musicians, in others companies of jugglers, buffoons, and storiers. Five chartaks on each side of the thrones were allotted for the convenience of the court; the rest were filled by the different trades of the city. In one the fruiterers had formed a beautiful garden, glowing with pomegranates and gourds and watermelons, oranges, almonds, and pistachio-nuts; in another the butchers exhibited their meats carved in fanciful shapes, and the skins of animals formed into ludicrous figures. Here assembled the furriers, all dressed in masquerade, like leopards, lions, tigers and foxes; and in another booth mustered the upholsterers, proud of a camel made of wood, and reeds, and cord, and painted linen, a camel which walked about as if alive, though ever and anon a curtain drawn aside discovered to the marvelling multitude the workman within, performing in his own piece. Further on might be perceived the cotton manufacturers, whose chartak was full of birds of all shapes and plumage, formed nevertheless of their curious plant; and, in the centre rose a lofty minaret, constructed of the same material, with the help of reeds, although every one imagined it to be built with bricks and mortar. It was covered with embroidered work, and on the top was placed a stork, so cunningly devised that the children pelted it with pistachio-nuts. The saddlers showed their skill in two litters, open at top, each carried on a dromedary, and in each a beautiful woman, who diverted the spectators with light balls of gilt leather, throwing them up both with their hands and feet. Nor were the mat-makers backward in the proof of their dexterity, since, instead of a common banner, they exhibited a large standard of reeds worked with two lines of writing in Kufic, proclaiming the happy names of Alroy and Schirene.

But indeed in every chartak might be seen some wondrous specimens of the wealth of Bagdad, and of the ingenuity of its unrivalled artisans.

Around this mighty circus, on every side for the space of many miles, the plain was studded with innumerable pavilions. At measured intervals were tables furnished with every species of provision, and attended by appointed servants; flagons of wine and jars of sherbets, mingled with infinite baskets of delicious fruits and trays of refreshing confectionery. Although open to all comers, so great and rapid was the supply, that these banqueting tables seemed ever laden; and that the joys of the people might be complete, they were allowed to pursue whatever pleasures they thought fit without any restraint, by proclamation, in these terms.

'This is the time of feasting, pleasure, and rejoicing. Let no person reprimand or complain of another: let not the rich insult the poor, or the strong the weak: let no one ask another, "why have you done this ?"'

Millions of people were collected in this Paradise. They rejoiced, they feasted, they frolicked, they danced, they sang. They listened to the tales of the Arabian story-teller, at once enchanted and enchanting, or melted to the strain of the Persian poet as he painted the moon-lit forehead of his heroine and the wasting and shadowy form of his love-sick hero; they beheld with amazement the feats of the juggler of the Ganges, or giggled at the practised wit and the practical buffoonery of the Syrian mime. And the most delighted could still spare a fascinating glance to the inviting gestures and the voluptuous grace of the dancing girls of Egypt.[68] Everywhere reigned melody and merriment, rarity and beauty. For once mankind forgot their cares, and delivered themselves up to infinite enjoyment.

'I grow courteous,' said Kisloch the Kourd, assisting a party into one of the shows.

'And I humane,' said Calidas the Indian. 'Fellow, how dare you violate the proclamation, by thrashing that child?' He turned to one of the stewards of the table, who was belabouring the unfortunate driver of a camel which had stumbled and in its fall had shivered its burden, two panniers of porcelain.

'Mind your own business, fellow,' replied the steward, 'and be thankful that for once in your life you can dine.'

'Is this the way to speak to an officer?' said Calidas the Indian; 'I have half a mind to cut your tongue out.'

'Never mind, little fellow,' said the Guebre, 'here is a dirhem for you. Run away and be merry.'

'A miracle!' grinned the Negro; 'he giveth alms.'

'And you are witty,' rejoined the Guebre. ''Tis a wondrous day.'

'What shall we do?' said Kisloch.

'Let us dine,' proposed the Negro.

'Ay! under this plane-tree,' said Calidas. ''Tis pleasant to be alone. I hate everybody but ourselves.'

'Here stop, you rascal,' said the Guebre. 'What's your name?'

'I am a Hadgee,' said our old friend Abdallah, the servant of the charitable merchant Ali, and who was this day one of the officiating stewards.

'Are you a Jew, you scoundrel?' said the Guebre, 'that is the only thing worth being. Bring some wine, you accursed Giaour!'

'Instantly,' said Kisloch, 'and a pilau.' 'And a gazelle stuffed with almonds,' said Calidas. 'And some sugar-plums,' said the Negro. 'Quick, you infernal Gentile, or I'll send this javelin in your back,' hallooed the Guebre.

The servile Abdallah hastened away, and soon bustled back, bearing two flagons of wine, and followed by four servants, each with a tray covered with dainties.

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