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Alroy - The Prince Of The Captivity
by Benjamin Disraeli
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'Where are you going, you accursed scoundrels?' grumbled Kisloch; 'wait upon the true believers.' 'We shall be more free alone,' whispered Calidas. 'Away, then, dogs,' growled Kisloch. Abdallah and his attendants hurried off, but were soon summoned back.

'Why did you not bring Schiraz wine?' asked Calidas, with an eye of fire.

'The pilau is overdone,' thundered Kisloch. 'You have brought a lamb stuffed with pistachio-nuts, instead of a gazelle with almonds,' said the Guebre.

'Not half sugar-plums enough,' said the Negro. 'Everything is wrong,' said Kisloch. 'Go, and get us a kabob.'

In time, however, even this unmanageable crew were satisfied; and, seated under their plane-tree, and stuffing themselves with all the dainties of the East, they became more amiable as their appetites decreased. 'A bumper, Calidas, and a song,' said Kisloch. ''Tis rare stuff,' said the Guebre; 'come, Cally, it should inspire you.'

'Here goes, then; mind the chorus.'

Drink, drink, deeply drink, Never feel, and never think; What's love? what's fame? a sigh, a smile. Friendship? but a hollow wile. If you've any thought or woe, Drown them in the goblet's flow. Yes! dash them in this brimming cup; Dash them in, and drink them up. Drink, drink, deeply drink, Never feel, and never think.

'Hark, the trumpets! The King and Queen! 'The procession is coming. Let's away.'

'Again! they must be near. Hurry, hurry, for good places.'

'Break all the cups and dishes. Come along!'

The multitude from all quarters hurried to the great circus, amid the clash of ten thousand cymbals and the blast of innumerable trumpets. In the distance, issuing from the gates of Bagdad, might be discerned a brilliant crowd, the advance company of the bridal procession.

There came five hundred maidens crowned with flowers, and beauteous as the buds that girt their hair. Their flowing robes were whiter than the swan, and each within her hand a palm-branch held. Followed these a band of bright musicians, clothed in golden robes, and sounding silver trumpets.

Then five hundred youths, brilliant as stars, clad in jackets of white-fox skin, and alternately bearing baskets of fruit or flowers.

Followed these a band of bright musicians, clothed in silver robes, and sounding golden trumpets.

Six choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by an Arab groom.[69]

The household of Medad, in robes of crimson, lined with sable.

The standard of Medad.

Medad, on a coal-black Arab, followed by three hundred officers of his division, all mounted on steeds of pure race.

Slaves, bearing the bridal present of Medad; six Damascus sabres of unrivalled temper.[70]

Twelve choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by an Anatolian groom.

The household of Ithamar, in robes of violet, lined with ermine.

The standard of Ithamar.

Ithamar, on a snow-white Anatolian charger, followed by six hundred officers of his division, all mounted on steeds of pure race.

Slaves bearing the marriage present of Ithamar; a golden vase of rubies borne on a violet throne.

One hundred Negroes, their noses bored, and hung with rings of brilliants, playing upon wind instruments and kettle-drums.

The standard of the City of Bagdad.

The deputation from the citizens of Bagdad.

Two hundred mules, with caparisons of satin, embroidered with gold, and adorned with small golden bells. These bore the sumptuous wardrobe, presented by the city to their princess. Each mule was attended by a girl, dressed like a Peri, with starry wings, and a man, masked as a hideous Dive.

The standard of Egypt.

The deputation from the Hebrews of Egypt, mounted on dromedaries, with silver furniture.

Fifty slaves, bearing their present to the princess, with golden cords, a mighty bath of jasper, beautifully carved, the sarcophagus of some ancient temple, and purchased for an immense sum.

The standard of Syria.

The deputation from the Hebrews of the Holy Land, headed by Rabbi Zimri himself, each carrying in his hand his offering to the nuptial pair, a precious vase, containing earth from the Mount of Zion.

The standard of Hamadan.

The deputation from the citizens of Hamadan, headed by the venerable Bostenay himself, whose sumptuous charger was led by Caleb.

The present of the city of Hamadan to David Al-roy, offered at his own suggestion; the cup in which the Prince of the Captivity carried his tribute, now borne full of sand.

Fifty choice steeds, sumptuously caparisoned, each led by a Median or Persian groom.

The household of Abner and Miriam, in number twelve hundred, clad in chain armour of ivory and gold.

The standard of the Medes and Persians.

Two white elephants, with golden litters, bearing the Viceroy and his Princess.

The offering of Abner to Alroy; twelve elephants of state, with furniture embroidered with jewels, each tended by an Indian clad in chain armour of ivory and gold.

The offering of Miriam to Schirene; fifty plants of roses from Rocnabad;[71] a white shawl of Cachemire fifty feet in length, which folded into the handle of a fan; fifty screens, each made of a feather of the roc;[72] and fifty vases of crystal full of exquisite perfumes, and each sealed with a talisman of precious stones.

After these followed the eunuch guard.

Then came the band of the serail, consisting of three hundred dwarfs, hideous indeed to behold, but the most complete musicians in the world.

The steeds of Solomon, in number one hundred, each with a natural star upon its front, uncaparisoned, and led only by a bridle of diamonds.

The household of Alroy and Schirene. Foremost, the Lord Honain riding upon a chestnut charger, shod with silver; the dress of the rider, pink with silver stars. From his rosy turban depended a tremulous aigrette of brilliants,73 blazing with a thousand shifting tints.

Two hundred pages followed him; and then servants of both sexes, gorgeously habited, amounting to nearly two thousand, carrying rich vases, magnificent caskets, and costly robes. The treasurer and two hundred of his underlings came next, showering golden dirhems on all sides.

The sceptre of Solomon borne by Asriel himself.

A magnificent and lofty car, formed of blue enamel with golden wheels, and axletrees of turquoises and brilliants, and drawn by twelve snow-white and sacred horses, four abreast; in the car Alroy and Schirene.

Five thousand of the Sacred Guard closed the procession.

Amid the exclamations of the people, this gorgeous procession crossed the plain, and moved around the mighty circus. The conqueror and his bride ascended their throne; its steps were covered by the youths and maidens. On the throne upon their right sat the venerable Bostenay; on the left, the gallant Viceroy and his Princess. The chartaks on each side were crowded with the court.

The deputations made their offerings, the chiefs and captains paid their homage, the trades of the city moved before the throne in order, and exhibited their various ingenuity. Thrice was the proclamation made, amid the sound of trumpets, and then began the games.

A thousand horsemen dashed into the arena and threw the jerreed. They galloped at full speed; they arrested their fiery charges in mid course, and flung their long javelins at the minute but sparkling target, the imitative form of a rare and brilliant bird. The conquerors received their prizes from the hand of the princess herself, bright shawls, and jewelled daggers, and rosaries of gems. Sometimes the trumpets announced a prize from the vice-queen, sometimes from the venerable Bostenay, sometimes from the victorious generals, or the loyal deputations, sometimes from the united trades, sometimes from the City of Bagdad, sometimes from the City of Hamadan. The hours flew away in gorgeous and ceaseless variety.

'I would we were alone, my own Schirene,' said Alroy to his bride.

'I would so too; and yet I love to see all Asia prostrate at the feet of Alroy.'

'Will the sun never set? Give me thy hand to play with.'

'Hush! See, Miriam smiles.'

'Lovest thou my sister, my own Schirene?'

'None dearer but thyself.'

'Talk not of my sister, but ourselves. Thinkest thou the sun is nearer setting, love?'

'I cannot see; thine eyes they dazzle me, they are so brilliant, sweet!'

'Oh, my soul! I could pour out my passion on thy breast.'

'Thou art very serious.'

'Love is ever so.'

'Nay, sweet! It makes me wild and fanciful. Now I could do such things, but what I know not. I would we had wings, and then we would fly away.'

'See, I must salute this victor in the games. Must I unloose thy hand! Dear hand, farewell! Think of me while I speak, my precious life. 'Tis done. Give back thy hand, or else methinks I shall die. What's this?'

A horseman, in no holiday dress, but covered with dust, rushed into the circus, bearing in his hand a tall lance, on which was fixed a scroll. The marshals of the games endeavoured to prevent his advance, but he would not be stayed. His message was to the king alone. A rumour of news from the army circulated throughout the crowd. And news from the army it was. Another victory! Scherirah had defeated the Sultan of Roum, who was now a suppliant for peace and alliance. Sooth to say, the intelligence had arrived at dawn of day, but the courtly Honain had contrived that it should be communicated at a later and more effective moment.

There scarcely needed this additional excitement to this glorious day. But the people cheered, the golden dirhems were scattered with renewed profusion, and the intelligence was received by all parties as a solemn ratification by Jehovah, or by Allah, of the morning ceremony.

The sun set, the court rose, and returned in the same pomp to the serail. The twilight died away, a beacon fired on a distant eminence announced the entrance of Alroy and Schirene into the nuptial chamber, and suddenly, as by magic, the mighty city, every mosque, and minaret, and tower, and terrace, and the universal plain, and the numberless pavilions, and the immense circus, and the vast and winding river, blazed with light. From every spot a lamp, a torch, a lantern, tinted with every hue, burst forth; enormous cressets of silver radiancy beamed on the top of each chartak, and huge bonfires of ruddy flame started up along the whole horizon.

For seven days and seven nights this unparalleled scene of rejoicing, though ever various, never ceased. Long, long was remembered the bridal feast of the Hebrew prince and the caliph's daughter; long, long did the peasantry on the plains of Tigris sit down by the side of that starry river, and tell the wondrous tale to their marvelling posterity.

Now what a glorious man was David Alroy, lord of the mightiest empire in the world, and wedded to the most beautiful princess, surrounded by a prosperous and obedient people, guarded by invincible armies, one on whom Earth showered all its fortune, and Heaven all its favour; and all by the power of his own genius!



CHAPTER IX.

The Death of Jabaster

'TWAS midnight, and the storm still raged; 'mid the roar of the thunder and the shrieks of the wind, the floods of forky lightning each instant revealed the broad and billowy breast of the troubled Tigris. Jabaster stood gazing upon the wild scene from the gallery of his palace. His countenance was solemn, but disquieted.

'I would that he were here!' exclaimed the high priest. 'Yet why should I desire his presence, who heralds only gloom? Yet in his absence am I gay? I am nothing. This Bagdad weighs upon me like a cloak of lead: my spirit is dull and broken.'

'They say Alroy gives a grand banquet in the serail to-night, and toasts his harlot 'mid the thunderbolts. Is there no hand to write upon the wall? He is found wanting, he is weighed, and is indeed found wanting. The parting of his kingdom soon will come, and then, I could weep, oh! I could weep, and down these stern and seldom yielding cheeks pour the wild anguish of my desperate woe. So young, so great, so favoured! But one more step a God, and now a foul Belshazzar!

'Was it for this his gentle youth was passed in musing solitude and mystic studies? Was it for this the holy messenger summoned his most religious spirit? Was it for this he crossed the fiery desert, and communed with his fathers in their tombs? Is this the end of all his victories and all his vast achievements? To banquet with a wanton!

'A year ago, this very night, it was the eve of battle, I stood within his tent to wait his final word. He mused awhile, and then he said, "Good night, Jabaster!" I believed myself the nearest to his heart, as he has ever been nearest to mine, but that's all over. He never says, "Good night, Jabaster," now. Why, what's all this? Methinks I am a child.

'The Lord's anointed is a prisoner now in the light grating of a bright kiosk, and never gazes on the world he conquered. Egypt and Syria, even farthest Ind, send forth their messengers to greet Alroy, the great, the proud, the invincible. And where is he? In a soft Paradise of girls and eunuchs, crowned with flowers, listening to melting lays, and the wild trilling of the amorous lute. He spares no hours to council; all is left to his prime favourites, of whom the leader is that juggling fiend I sometime called my brother.

'Why rest I here? Whither should I fly? Methinks my presence is still a link to decency. Should I tear off the ephod, I scarcely fancy 'twould blaze upon another's breast. He goes not to the sacrifice; they say he keeps no fast, observes no ritual, and that their festive fantasies will not be balked, even by the Sabbath. I have not seen him thrice since the marriage. Honain has told her I did oppose it, and she bears to me a hatred that only women feel. Our strong passions break into a thousand purposes: women have one. Their love is dangerous, but their hate is fatal.

'See! a boat bounding on the waters. On such a night, but one would dare to venture.'

Now visible, now in darkness, a single lantern at the prow, Jabaster watched with some anxiety the slight bark buffeting the waves. A flash of lightning illumined the whole river, and tipped with a spectral light even the distant piles of building. The boat and the toiling figure of the single rower were distinctly perceptible. Now all again was darkness; the wind suddenly subsided; in a few minutes the plash of the oars was audible, and the boat apparently stopped beneath the palace.

There was a knocking at the private portal.

'Who knocks?' enquired Jabaster.

'A friend to Israel.'

'Abidan, by his voice. Art thou alone?'

'The prophetess is with me; only she.'

'A moment. I'll open the gate. Draw the boat within the arch.'

Jabaster descended from the gallery, and in a few moments returned with two visitors: the youthful prophetess Esther, and her companion, a man short in stature, but with a powerful and well-knit frame. His countenance was melancholy, and, with harshness in the lower part, not without a degree of pensive beauty in the broad clear brow and sunken eyes, unusual in Oriental visages.

'A rough night,' said Jabaster.

'To those who fear it,' replied Abidan. 'The sun has brought so little joy to me, I care not for the storm.'

'What news?'

'Woe! woe! woe!'

'Thy usual note, my sister. Will the day never come when we may change it?'

'Woe! woe! woe! unutterable woe!'

'Abidan, how fares it?'

'Very well.'

'Indeed!'

'As it may turn out.'

'You are brief.'

'Bitter.'

'Have you been to court, that you have learnt to be so wary in your words, my friend?'

'I know not what may happen. In time we may all become courtiers, though I fear, Jabaster, we have done too much to be rewarded. I gave him my blood, and you something more, and now we are at Bagdad. 'Tis a fine city. I wish to Heaven the shower of Sodom would rain upon its terraces.'

'I know thou hast something terrible to tell. I know it by that gloomy brow of thine, that lowers like the tempest. Speak out, man, I can bear the worst, for which I am prepared.'

'Take it, then. Alroy has proclaimed himself Caliph. Abner is made Sultan of Persia; Asriel, Ithamar, Medad, and the chief captains, Vizirs, Honain their chief. Four Moslem nobles are sworn into the council. The Princess goes to mosque in state next Friday; 'tis said thy pupil doth accompany her.'

'I'll not believe it! By the God of Sinai, I'll not believe it! Were my own eye the accursed witness of the deed, I'd not believe it. Go to mosque! They play with thee, my good Abidan, they play with thee.'

'As it may be. Tis a rumour, but rumours herald deeds. The rest of my intelligence is true. I had it from my kinsman, stout Zalmunna. He left the banquet.'

'Shall I go to him? Methinks one single word, To mosque! only a rumour and a false one. I'll never believe it; no, no, no, never, never! Is he not the Lord's anointed? The ineffable curse upon this daughter ot the Moabite! No marvel that it thunders! By heavens, I'll go and beard him in his orgies!'

'You know your power better than Abidan. You bearded him before his marriage, yet——'

'He married. Tis true. Honain, their chief. And I kept his ring! Honain is my brother. Have I ne'er a dagger to cut the bond of brotherhood?'

'We have all daggers, Jabaster, if we knew but how to use them.'

''Tis strange, we met after twenty years of severance. You were not in the chamber, Abidan. 'Twas at council. We met after twenty years of severance. He is my brother. 'Tis strange, I say: I felt that man shrink from my embrace.'

'Honain is a philosopher, and believes in sympathy. 'Twould appear there was none between you. His system, then, absolves you from all ties.'

'You are sure the rest of the intelligence is true? I'll not believe the mosque, the rest is bad enough.'

'Zalmunna left the banquet. Hassan Subah's brother sat above him.'

'Subah's brother! 'Tis all over, then. Is he of the council?'

'Ay, and others.'

'Where now is Israel?'

'She should be in her tents.'

'Woe! woe! unutterable woe!' exclaimed the prophetess, who, standing motionless at the back of the chamber, seemed inattentive to their conversation.

Jabaster paced the gallery with agitated steps. Suddenly he stopped, and, walking up to Abidan, seized his arm, and looked him sternly in the face. 'I know thy thoughts, Abidan,' exclaimed the priest; 'but it cannot be. I have dismissed, henceforth and for ever I have dismissed all feeling from my mind; now I have no brother, no friend, no pupil, and, I fear, no Saviour. Israel is all in all to me. I have no other life. 'Tis not compunction, then, that stays my arm. My heart's as hard as thine.'

'Why stays it then?'

'Because with him we fall. He is the last of all his sacred line. There is no other hand to grasp our sceptre.'

'Our sceptre! what sceptre?'

'The sceptre of our kings.'

'Kings!'

'Ay, why dost thou look so dark?'

'How looked the prophet when the stiff-necked populace forsooth must have a king! Did he smile? Did he shout, and clap his hands, and cry, God save his Majesty! O, Jabaster! honoured, rare Jabaster! thou second Samuel of our lightheaded people! there was a time when Israel had no king except their God. Were we viler then? Did kings conquer Canaan? Who was Moses, who was Aaron, who was mighty Joshua? Was the sword of Gideon a kingly sword? Did the locks of Samson shade royal temples? Would a king have kept his awful covenant like solemn Jephtha? Royal words are light as air, when, to maintain them, you injure any other than a subject.

'Kings! why, what's a king? Why should one man break the equal sanctity of our chosen race? Is their blood purer than our own? We are all the seed of Abraham. Who was Saul, and who was David? I never heard that they were a different breed from our fathers. Grant them devout, which they were not; and brave and wise, which other men were; have their posterity a patent for all virtues? No, Jabaster! thou ne'er didst err, but when thou placedst a crown upon this haughty stripling. What he did, a thousand might have done. 'Twas thy mind inspired the deed. And now he is a king; and now Jabaster, the very soul of Israel, who should be our Judge and leader, Jabaster trembles in disgrace, while our unhallowed Sanhedrim is filled with Ammonites!'

'Abidan, thou hast touched me to the quick; thou hast stirred up thoughts that ever and anon, like strong and fatal vapours, have risen from the dark abyss of thought, and I have quelled them.'

'Let them rise, I say; let them drown the beams of that all-scorching sun we suffer under, that drinks all vegetation up, and makes us languish with a dull exhaustion!'

'Joy! joy! unutterable joy!'

'Hark! the prophetess has changed her note; and yet she hears us not. The spirit of the Lord is truly with her. Come, Jabaster, I see thy heart is opening to thy people's sufferings; thy people, my Jabaster, for art not thou our Judge? At least, thou shalt be.'

'Can we call back the Theocracy? Is't possible?'

'But say the word, and it is done, Jabaster. Nay, stare not. Dost thou think there are no true hearts in Israel? Dost thou suppose thy children have beheld, without a thought, the foul insults poured on thee; thee, their priest, their adored high priest, one who recalls the best days of the past, the days of their great Judges? But one word, one single movement of that mitred head, and—— But I speak unto a mind that feels more than I can express. Be silent, tongue, thou art a babbling counsellor. Jabaster's patriot soul needs not the idle schooling of a child. If he be silent, 'tis that his wisdom deems that the hour is not ripe, but when her leader speaks, Israel will not be slack.'

'The Moslemin in council! We know what must come next. Our national existence is in its last agony. Methinks the time is very ripe, Abidan.'

'Why, so we think, great sir; and say the word, and twenty thousand spears will guard the Ark. I'll answer for my men. Stout Scherirah looks grimly on the Moabites. A word from thee, and the whole Syrian army will join our banner, the Lion of Judah, that shall be our flag. The tyrant and his satraps, let them die, and then the rest must join us. We'll proclaim the covenant, and, leaving Babylon to a bloody fate, march on to Zion!'

'Zion, his youthful dream, Zion!'

'You muse!'

'King or no king, he is the Lord's anointed. Shall this hand, that poured the oil on his hallowed head, wash out the balmy signet with his blood? Must I slay him? Shall this kid be seethed even in its mother's milk?'

'His voice is low, and yet his face is troubled. How now, sir?'

'What art thou? Ah! Abidan, trusty, stanch Abidan! You see, Abidan, I was thinking, my good Abidan, all this may be the frenzy of a revel. Tomorrow's dawn may summon cooler counsels. The tattle of the table, it is sacred. Let us forget it; let us pass it over. The Lord may turn his heart. Who knows, who knows, Abidan!'

'Noble sir, a moment since your mind was like your faith, firm and resolved, and now——'

'School me not, school me not, good Abidan. There is that within my mind you cannot fathom; some secret sorrows which are all my own. Leave me, good friend, leave me awhile. When Israel calls me I shall not be wanting. Be sure of that, Abidan, be sure of that. Nay, do not go; the night is very rough, and the fair prophetess should not again stem the swelling river. I'll to my closet, and will soon return.'

Jabaster quitted the gallery, and entered a small apartment. Several large volumes, unclasped and open, were lying on various parts of the divan. Before them stood his brazen cabalistic table. He closed the chamber with a cautious air. He advanced into the centre of the apartment. He lifted up his hands to heaven, and clasped them with an expression almost of agony.

'Is it come to this?' he muttered in a tone of deep oppression. 'Is it come to this? What is't I have heard? what done? Down, tempting devil, down! O life! O glory! O my country, my chosen people, and my sacred creed! why do we live, why act? Why have we feeling for aught that's famous, or for aught that's holy? Let me die! let, let me die! The torture of existence is too great.'

He flung himself upon the couch; he buried his awful countenance in his robes. His mighty heart was convulsed with passion. There did he lie, that great and solemn man, prostrate and woe-begone.

'The noisy banquet lingers in my ear; I love to be alone.'

'With me?'

'Thou art myself; I have no other life.'

'Sweet bird! It is now a caliph.'

'I am what thou wiliest, soul of my sweet existence! Pomp and dominion, fame and victory, seem now but flawed and dimly-shaded gems compared with thy bright smile!'

'My plaintive nightingale, shall we hunt to-day?'

'Alas! my rose, I would rather lie upon this lazy couch, and gaze upon thy beauty!'

'Or sail upon the cool and azure lake, in some bright barque, like to a sea-nymph's shell, and followed by the swans?'

'There is no lake so blue as thy deep eye; there is no swan so white as thy round arm!'

'Or shall we launch our falcons in the air, and bring the golden pheasant to our feet?'

'I am the golden pheasant at thy feet; why wouldst thou richer prey?'

'Rememberest thou thy earliest visit to this dear kiosk, my gentle mute? There thou stoodst with folded arms and looks demure as day, and ever and anon with those dark eyes stealing a glance which made my cheek quite pale. Methinks I see thee even yet, shy bird. Dost know, I was so foolish when it quitted me, dost know I cried?'

'Ah, no! thou didst not cry?'

'Indeed, I think I did.'

'Tell me again, my own Schirene, indeed didst cry?'

'Indeed I did, my soul!'

'I would those tears were in some crystal vase, I'd give a province for the costly urn.'

She threw her arms around his neck and covered his face with kisses.

Sunset sounded from the minarets. They arose and wandered together in the surrounding paradise. The sky was tinted with a pale violet flush, a single star floating by the side of the white moon, that beamed with a dim lustre, soft and shapely as a pearl.

'Beautiful!' exclaimed the pensive Schirene, as she gazed upon the star. 'O, my Alroy, why cannot we ever live alone, and ever in a paradise?'

'I am wearied of empire,' replied Alroy with a smile, 'let us fly!'

'Is there no island, with all that can make life charming, and yet impervious to man? How little do we require! Ah! if these gardens, instead of being surrounded by hateful Bagdad, were only encompassed by some beautiful ocean!'

'My heart, we live in a paradise, and are seldom disturbed, thanks to Honain!'

'But the very consciousness that there are any other persons existing besides ourselves is to me painful. Every one who even thinks of you seems to rob me of a part of your being. Besides, I am weary of pomp and palaces. I should like to live in a sparry grot, and sleep upon a couch of sweet leaves!'

This interesting discussion was disturbed by a dwarf, who, in addition to being very small and very ugly, was dumb. He bowed before the Princess; and then had recourse to a great deal of pantomimic action, by which she discovered that it was dinnertime. No other person could have ventured to disturb the royal pair, but this little being was a privileged favourite.

So Alroy and Schirene entered the serail. An immense cresset-lamp, fed with perfumed oil, threw a soft light round the sumptuous chamber. At the end stood a row of eunuchs in scarlet dresses, and each holding a tall silver staff. The Caliph and the Sultana threw themselves upon a couch covered with a hundred cushions; on one side stood a group consisting of the captain of the guard and other officers of the household, on the other, of beautiful female slaves magnificently attired.

The line of domestics at the end of the apartment opened, and a body of slaves advanced, carrying trays of ivory and gold, and ebony and silver, covered with the choicest dainties, curiously prepared. These were in turn offered to the Caliph and the Sultana by their surrounding attendants. The Princess accepted a spoon made of a single pearl, the long, thin golden handle of which was studded with rubies, and condescended to partake of some saffron soup, of which she was fond. Afterwards she regaled herself with the breast of a cygnet, stuffed with almonds, and stewed with violets and cream. Having now a little satisfied her appetite, and wishing to show a mark of her favour to a particular individual, she ordered the captain of the guard instantly to send him the whole of the next course[74] with her compliments. Her attention was then engaged with a dish of those delicate ortolans that feed upon the vine-leaves of Schiraz, and with which the Governor of Nishapur took especial care that she should be well provided. Tearing the delicate birds to pieces with her still more delicate fingers, she insisted upon feeding Alroy, who of course yielded to her solicitations. In the meantime, they refreshed themselves with their favourite sherbet of pomegranates, and the golden wine of Mount Lebanon.[76] The Caliph, who could eat no more ortolans, although fed by such delicate fingers, was at length obliged to call for 'rice,' which was synonymous to commanding the banquet to disappear. The attendants now brought to each basins of gold, and ewers of rock crystal filled with rose water, with towels of that rare Egyptian linen which can be made only of the cotton that grows upon the banks of the Nile. While they amused themselves with eating sugar-plums, and drinking coffee flavoured with cinnamon, the female slaves danced before them in the most graceful attitudes to the melody of invisible musicians.

'My enchanting Schirene,' said the Caliph, 'I have dined, thanks to your attention, very well. These slaves of yours dance admirably, and are exceedingly beautiful. Your music, too, is beyond all praise; but, for my own part, I would rather be quite alone, and listening to one of your songs.'

'I have written a new one to-day. You shall hear it.' So saying, she clapped her little white hands, and all the attendants immediately withdrew.

'The stars are stealing forth, and so will I. Sorry sight! to view Jabaster, with a stealthy step, skulk like a thing dishonoured! Oh! may the purpose consecrate the deed! the die is cast.'

So saying, the High Priest, muffled up in his robe, emerged from his palace into the busy streets. It is at night that the vitality of Oriental life is most impressive. The narrow winding streets, crowded with a population breathing the now sufferable air, the illuminated coffee-houses, the groups of gay yet sober revellers, the music, and the dancing, and the animated recitals of the poet and the story-teller, all combine to invest the starry hours with a beguiling and even fascinating character of enjoyment and adventure.

It was the night after the visit of Abidan and the prophetess. Jabaster had agreed to meet Abidan in the square of the great mosque two hours after sunset, and thither he now repaired.

'I am somewhat before my time,' he said, as he entered the great square, over which the rising moon threw a full flood of light. A few dark shadows of human beings alone moved in the distance. The world was in the streets and coffee-houses. 'I am somewhat before my time,' said Jabaster. 'Conspirators are watchful. I am anxious for the meeting, and yet I dread it. Since he broke this business, I have never slept. My mind is a chaos. I will not think. If 'tis to be done, let it be done at once. I am more tempted to sheathe this dagger in Jabaster's breast than in Alroy's. If life or empire were the paltry stake, I would end a life that now can bring no joy, and yield authority that hath no charm; but Israel, Israel, thou for whom I have endured so much, let me forget Jabaster had a mother!

'But for this thought that links me with my God, and leads my temper to a higher state, how vain and sad, how wearisome and void, were this said world they think of! But for this thought, I could sit down and die. Yea! my great heart could crack, worn out, worn out; my mighty passions, with their fierce but flickering flame, sink down and die; and the strong brain that ever hath urged my course, and pricked me onward with perpetual thought, desert the rudder it so long hath held, like some baffled pilot in blank discomfiture, in the far centre of an unknown sea.

'Study and toil, anxiety and sorrow, mighty action, perchance Time, and disappointment, which is worse than all, have done their work, and not in vain. I am no longer the same Jabaster that gazed upon the stars of Caucasus. Methinks even they look dimmer than of yore. The glory of my life is fading. My leaves are sear, tinged, but not tainted. I am still the same in one respect; I have not left my God, in deed or thought. Ah! who art thou?'

'A friend to Israel.'

'I am glad that Israel hath a friend. Noble Abi-dan, I have well considered all that hath passed between us. Sooth to say, you touched upon a string I've played before, but kept it for my loneliness; a jarring tune, indeed a jarring tune, but so it is, and being so, let me at once unto your friends, Abi-dan.'

'Noble Jabaster, thou art what I deemed thee.'

'Abidan, they say the consciousness of doing justly is the best basis of a happy mind.'

'Even so.'

'And thou believest it?'

'Without doubt.'

'We are doing very justly?'

''Tis a weak word for such a holy purpose.'

'I am most wretched!'

The High Priest and his companion entered the house of Abidan. Jabaster addressed the already assembled guests.

'Brave Scherirah, it joys me to find thee here. In Israel's cause when was Scherirah wanting? Stout Zalmunna, we have not seen enough of each other: the blame is mine. Gentle prophetess, thy blessing!

'Good friends, why we meet here is known to all. Little did we dream of such a meeting when we crossed the Tigris. But that is nothing. We come to act, and not to argue. Our great minds, they are resolved: our solemn purpose requires no demonstration. If there be one among us who would have Israel a slave to Ishmael, who would lose all we have prayed for, all we have fought for, all we have won, and all for which we are prepared to die, if there be one among us who would have the Ark polluted, and Jehovah's altar stained with a Gentile sacrifice, if there be one among us who does not sigh for Zion, who would not yield his breath to build the Temple and gain the heritage his fathers lost, why, let him go! There is none such among us: then stay, and free your country!'

'We are prepared, great Jabaster; we are prepared, all, all!'

'I know it; you are like myself. Necessity hath taught decision. Now for our plans. Speak, Zalmunna.'

'Noble Jabaster, I see much difficulty. Alroy no longer quits his palace. Our entrance unwatched is, you well know, impossible. What say you, Scherirah?'

'I doubt not of my men, but war against Alroy is, to say nought of danger, of doubtful issue.'

'I am prepared to die, but not to fail,' said Abidan. 'We must be certain. Open war I fear. The mass of the army will side with their leaders, and they are with the tyrant. Let us do the deed, and they must join us.'

'Is it impossible to gain his presence to some sacrifice in honour of some by-gone victory; what think ye?'

'I doubt much, Jabaster. At this moment he little wishes to sanction our national ceremonies with his royal person. The woman assuredly will stay him. And, even if he come, success is difficult, and therefore doubtful.'

'Noble warriors, list to a woman's voice,' exclaimed the prophetess, coming forward. ''Tis weak, but with such instruments, even the aspirations of a child, the Lord will commune with his chosen people. There is a secret way by which I can gain the gardens of the palace. To-morrow night, just as the moon is in her midnight bower, behold the accursed pile shall blaze. Let Abidan's troops be all prepared, and at the moment when the flames first ascend, march to the Seraglio gate as if with aid. The affrighted guard will offer no opposition. While the troops secure the portals, you yourselves, Zalmunna, Abidan, and Jabaster, rush to the royal chamber and do the deed. In the meantime, let brave Scherirah, with his whole division, surround the palace, as if unconscious of the mighty work. Then come you forward, show, if it need, with tears, the fated body to the soldiery, and announce the Theocracy.'

'It is the Lord who speaks,' said Abidan, who was doubtless prepared for the proposition. 'He has delivered them into our hands.'

'A bold plan,' said Jabaster, musing, 'and yet I like it. 'Tis quick, and that is something. I think 'tis sure.'

'It cannot fail,' exclaimed Zalmunna, 'for if the flame ascend not, still we are but where we were.'

'I am for it,' said Scherirah.

'Well, then,' said Jabaster, 'so let it be. Tomorrow's eve will see us here again prepared. Good night.'

'Good night, holy Priest. How seem the stars, Jabaster?'

'Very troubled; so have they been some days. What they portend I know not.'

'Health to Israel.'

'Let us hope so. Good night, sweet friends.'

'Good night, holy Jabaster. Thou art our cornerstone.'

'Israel hath no other hope but in Jabaster.'

'My Lord,' said Abidan, 'remain, I pray, one moment.'

'What is't? I fain would go.'

'Alroy must die, my Lord, but dost thou think a single death will seal the covenant?'

'The woman?'

'Ay! the woman! I was not thinking of the woman. Asriel, Ithamar, Medad?'

'Valiant soldiers! doubt not we shall find them useful instruments. I do not fear such loose companions. They follow their leaders, like other things born to obey. Having no head themselves, they must follow us who have.'

'I think so too. There is no other man who might be dangerous?'

Zalmunna and Scherirah cast their eyes upon the ground. There was a dead silence, broken by the prophetess.

'A judgment hath gone forth against Honain!' 'Nay! he is Lord Jabaster's brother,' said Abidan.

'It is enough to save a more inveterate foe to Israel, if such there be.'

'I have no brother, Sir. The man you speak of I will not slay, since there are others who may do that deed. And so again, good night.'

It was the dead of night, a single lamp burned in the chamber, which opened into an arched gallery that descended by a flight of steps into the gardens of the Serail.

A female figure ascended the flight with slow and cautious steps. She paused on the gallery, she looked around, one foot was in the chamber.

She entered. She entered a chamber of small dimensions, but richly adorned. In the farthest corner was a couch of ivory, hung with a gauzy curtain of silver tissue, which, without impeding respiration, protected the slumberer from the fell insects of an Oriental night. Leaning against an ottoman was a large brazen shield of ancient fashion, and near it some helmets and curious weapons.

'An irresistible impulse hath carried me into this chamber!' exclaimed the prophetess. 'The light haunted me like a spectre; and wheresoever I moved, it seemed to summon me.

'A couch and a slumberer!'

She approached the object, she softly withdrew the curtain. Pale and panting, she rushed back, yet with a light step. She beheld Alroy!

For a moment she leant against the wall, overpowered by her emotions. Again she advanced, and gazed on her unconscious victim.

'Can the guilty sleep like the innocent? Who would deem this gentle slumberer had betrayed the highest trust that ever Heaven vouchsafed to favoured man? He looks not like a tyrant and a traitor: calm his brow, and mild his placid breath! His long dark hair, dark as the raven's wing, hath broken from its fillet, and courses, like a wild and stormy night, over his pale and moon-lit brow. His cheek is delicate, and yet repose hath brought a flush; and on his lip there seems some word of love, that will not quit it. It is the same Alroy that blessed our vision when, like the fresh and glittering star of morn, he rose up in the desert, and bringing joy to others, brought to me only——

'Oh! hush my heart, and let thy secret lie hid in the charnel-house of crushed affections. Hard is the lot of woman: to love and to conceal is our sharp doom! O bitter life! O most unnatural lot! Man made society, and made us slaves. And so we droop and die, or else take refuge in idle fantasies, to which we bring the fervour that is meant for nobler ends.

'Beauteous hero! whether I bear thee most hatred or most love I cannot tell. Die thou must; yet I feel I should die with thee. Oh! that to-night could lead at the same time unto our marriage bed and funeral pyre. Must that white bosom bleed? and must those delicate limbs be hacked and handled by these bloody butchers? Is that justice? They lie, the traitors, when they call thee false to our God. Thou art thyself a god, and I could worship thee! See those beauteous lips; they move. Hark to the music!'

'Schirene, Schirene!'

'There wanted but that word to summon back my senses. Fool! whither is thy fancy wandering? I will not wait for tardy justice. I will do the deed myself. Shall I not kill my Sisera?' She seized a dagger from the ottoman, a rare and highly-tempered blade. Up she raised it in the air, and dashed it to his heart with superhuman force. It struck against the talisman which Jabaster had given to Alroy, and which, from a lingering superstition, he still wore; it struck, and shivered into a thousand pieces. The Caliph sprang from his couch; his eyes met the prophetess, standing over him in black despair, with the hilt of the dagger in her hand.

'What is all this? Schirene! Who art thou? Esther!' He jumped from the couch, called to Pharez, and seized her by both hands. 'Speak!' he continued. 'Art thou Esther? What dost thou here?'

She broke into a wild laugh; she wrestled with his grasp, and pulled him towards the gallery. He beheld the chief tower of the Serail in flames. Joining her hands together, grasping them both in one of his, and dragging her towards the ottoman, he seized a helmet and flung it upon the mighty shield. It sounded like a gong. Pharez started from his slumbers, and rushed into the chamber.

'Pharez! Treason! treason! Send instant orders that the palace gates be opened on no pretence whatever. Go, fly! See the captain himself. Summon the household. Order all to arms. Speed, for our lives!'

The whole palace was now roused. Alroy delivered Esther, exhausted, and apparently senseless, to a guard of eunuchs. Slaves and attendants poured in from all directions. Soon arrived Schirene, with dishevelled hair and hurried robes, attended by a hundred maidens, each bearing a torch.

'My soul, what ails thee?'

'Nothing, sweetest; all will soon be well,' replied Alroy, picking up, and examining the fragments of the shivered dagger, which he had just discovered.

'My life has been attempted; the palace is in flames; I suspect the city is in insurrection. Look to your mistress, maidens!' Schirene fell into their arms. 'I will soon be back.' So saying, he hurried to the grand court.

Several thousand persons, for the population of the Serail and its liberties was very considerable, were assembled in the grand court; eunuchs, women, pages, slaves, and servants, and a few soldiers; all in confusion and alarm, fire raging within, and mysterious and terrible outcries without. A cry of 'The Caliph! the Caliph!' announced the arrival of Alroy, and produced a degree of comparative silence.

'Where is the captain of the guard?' he exclaimed. 'That's well. Open the gates to none. Who will leap the wall and bear a message to Asriel? You? That's well too. To-morrow you shall yourself command. Where's Mesrour? Take the eunuch guard and the company of gardeners,76 and suppress the flames at all cost. Pull down the intervening buildings. Abidan's troop arrived with succour, eh! I doubt it not. I expected them. Open to none. They force an entrance, eh! I thought so. So that javelin has killed a traitor. Feed me with arms. I'll keep the gate. Send again to Asriel. Where's Pharez?'

'By your side, my lord.'

'Run to the Queen, my faithful Pharez, and tell her that all's well. I wish it were! Didst ever hear a din so awful? Methinks all the tambours and cymbals of the city are in full chorus. Foul play, I guess. Oh! for Asriel! Has Pharez returned?'

'I am by your side, my lord.'

'How's the Queen?'

'She would gladly join your side.'

'No, no! Keep the gates there. Who says they are making fires before them? Tis true. We must sally, if the worst come to the worst, and die at least like soldiers. O Asriel! Asriel!'

'May it please your Highness, the troops are pouring in from all quarters.'

''Tis Asriel.'

'No, your Highness, 'tis not the guard. Methinks they are Scherirah's men.'

'Hum! What it all is, I know not; but very foul play I do not doubt. Where's Honain?'

'With the Queen, Sire.'

''Tis well. What's that shout?'

'Here's the messenger from Asriel. Make way! way!'

'Well! how is't, Sir?'

'Please your Highness, I could not reach the guard.'

'Could not reach the guard! God of my fathers! who should let thee?'

'Sire, I was taken prisoner.'

'Prisoner! By the thunder of Sinai, are we at war? Who made thee prisoner?'

'Sire, they have proclaimed thy death.'

'Who?'

'The council of the Elders. So I heard. Abidan, Zalmunna——'

'Rebels and dogs! Who else?'

'The High Priest.'

'Hah! Is it there? Pharez, fetch me some drink. Is it true Scherirah has joined them?'

'His force surrounds the Serail. No aid can reach us without cutting through his ranks.'

'Oh! that I were there with my good guard! Are we to die here like rats, fairly murdered? Cowardly knaves! Hold out, hold out, my men! 'Tis sharp work, but some of us will smile at this hereafter. Who stands by Alroy to-night bravely and truly, shall have his heart's content to-morrow. Fear not: I was not born to die in a civic broil. I bear a charmed life. So to it.'

'Go to the Caliph, good Honain, I pray thee, go. I can support myself, he needs thy counsel. Bid him not expose his precious life. The wicked men! Asriel must soon be here. What sayest thou?'

'There is no fear. Their plans are ill-devised. I have long expected this stormy night, and feel even now more anxious than alarmed.'

''Tis at me they aim; it is I whom they hate. The High Priest, too! Ay, ay! Thy proud brother, good Honain, I have ever felt he would not rest until he drove me from this throne, my right; or washed my hated name from out our annals in my life's blood. Wicked, wicked Jabaster! He frowned upon me from the first, Honain. Is he indeed thy brother?'

'I care not to remember. He aims at something further than thy life; but Time will teach us more than all our thoughts.'

The fortifications of the Serail resisted all the efforts of the rebels. Scherirah remained in his quarters, with his troops under arms, and recalled the small force that he had originally sent out as much to watch the course of events as to assist Abidan. Asriel and Ithamar poured down their columns in the rear of that chieftain, and by dawn a division of the guard had crossed the river, the care of which had been entrusted to Scherirah, and had thrown themselves into the palace. Alroy sallied forth at the head of these fresh troops. His presence decided a result which was perhaps never doubtful. The division of Abidan fought with the desperation that became their fortunes. The carnage was dreadful, but their discomfiture complete. They no longer acted in masses, or with any general system. They thought only of self-preservation, or of selling their lives at the dearest cost. Some dispersed, some escaped. Others entrenched themselves in houses, others fortified the bazaar. All the horrors of war in the streets were now experienced. The houses were in flames, the thoroughfares flowed with blood.

At the head of a band of faithful followers, Abidan proved himself, by his courage and resources, worthy of success. At length, he was alone, or surrounded only by his enemies. With his back against a building in a narrow street, where the number of his opponents only embarrassed them, the three foremost of his foes fell before his irresistible scimitar. The barricaded door yielded to the pressure of the multitude. Abidan rushed up the narrow stairs, and, gaining a landing-place, turned suddenly round, and cleaved the skull of his nearest pursuer. He hurled the mighty body at his followers, and, retarding their advance, himself dashed onward, and gained the terrace of the mansion. Three soldiers of the guard followed him as he bounded from terrace to terrace. One, armed with a javelin, hurled it at the chieftain. The weapon slightly wounded Abidan, who, drawing it from his arm, sent it back to the heart of its owner. The two other soldiers, armed only with swords, gained upon him. He arrived at the last terrace in the cluster of buildings. He stood at bay on the brink of the precipice. He regained his breath. They approached him. He dodged them in their course. Suddenly, with admirable skill, he flung his scimitar edgewise at the legs of his farthest foe, who stopped short, roaring with pain. The chieftain sprang at the foremost, and hurled him down into the street below, where he was dashed to atoms. A trap-door offered itself to the despairing eye of the rebel. He descended and found himself in a room filled with women. They screamed, he rushed through them, and descending a Staircase, entered a chamber tenanted by a bed-ridden old man. The ancient invalid enquired the cause of the uproar, and died of fright before he could receive an answer, at the sight of the awful being before him, covered with streaming blood. Abidan secured the door, washed his blood-stained face, and disguising himself in the dusty robes of the deceased Armenian, sallied forth to watch the fray. The obscure street was silent. The chieftain proceeded unmolested. At the corner he found a soldier holding a charger for his captain. Abidan, unarmed, seized a poniard from the soldier's belt, stabbed him to the heart, and vaulting on the steed, galloped towards the river. No boat was to be found; he breasted the stream upon the stout courser. He reached the opposite bank. A company of camels were reposing by the side of a fountain. Alarm had dispersed their drivers. He mounted the fleetest in appearance; he dashed to the nearest gate of the city. The guard at the gate refused him a passage. He concealed his agitation. A marriage procession, returning from the country, arrived. He rushed into the centre of it, and overset the bride in her gilded wagon. In the midst of the confusion, the shrieks, the oaths, and the scuffle, he forced his way through the gate, scoured over the country, and never stopped until he had gained the desert.

The uproar died away. The shouts of warriors, the shrieks of women, the wild clang of warfare, all were silent. The flames were extinguished, the carnage ceased. The insurrection was suppressed, and order restored. The city, all the houses of which were closed, was patrolled by the conquering troops, and by sunset the conqueror himself, in his hall of state, received the reports and the congratulations of his chieftains. The escape of Abidan seemed counterbalanced by the capture of Jabaster. After performing prodigies of valour, the High Priest had been overpowered, and was now a prisoner in the Serail. The conduct of Scherirah was not too curiously criticised; a commission was appointed to enquire into the mysterious affair; and Alroy retired to the bath[77] to refresh himself after the fatigues of the victory which he could not consider a triumph.

As he reposed upon his couch, melancholy and exhausted, Schirene was announced. The Princess threw herself upon his neck and covered him with embraces. His heart yielded to her fondness, his spirit became lighter, his depression melted away.

'My ruby!' said Schirene, and she spoke in a low smothered voice, her face hidden and nestled in his breast. 'My ruby! dost thou love me?'

He smiled in fondness as he pressed her to his heart.

'My ruby, thy pearl is so frightened, it dare not look upon thee. Wicked men! 'tis I whom they hate, 'tis I whom they would destroy.'

'There is no danger, sweet. 'Tis over now. Speak not, nay, do not think of it.'

'Ah! wicked men! There is no joy on earth while such things live. Slay Alroy, their mighty master, who, from vile slaves, hath made them princes! Ungrateful churls! I am so alarmed, I ne'er shall sleep again. What! slay my innocent bird, my pretty bird, my very heart! I'll not believe it. It is I whom they hate. I am sure they will kill me. You shall never leave me, no, no, no, no! You shall not leave me, love, never, never! Didst hear a noise? Methinks they are even here, ready to plunge their daggers in our hearts, our soft, soft hearts! I think you love me, child; indeed, I think you do!'

'Take courage, heart! There is no fear, my soul; I cannot love thee more, or else I would.'

'All joy is gone! I ne'er shall sleep again. O my soul! art thou indeed alive? Do I indeed embrace my own Alroy, or is it all a wild and troubled dream, and are my arms clasped round a shadowy ghost, myself a spectre in a sepulchre? Wicked, wicked men! Can it indeed be true? What, slay Alroy! my joy, my only life! Ah! woe is me; our bright felicity hath fled for ever!'

'Not so, sweet child; we are but as we were. A few quick hours, and all will be as bright as if no storm had crossed our sunny days.'

'Hast seen Asriel? He says such fearful things!'

'How now?'

'Ah me! I am desolate. I have no friend.'

'Schirene!'

'They will have my blood. I know they will have my blood.'

'Indeed, an idle fancy.'

'Idle! Ask Asriel, question Ithamar. Idle! 'tis written in their tablets, their bloody scroll of rapine and of murder. Thy death led only to mine, and, had they hoped my bird would but have yielded his gentle mate, they would have spared him. Ay! ay! 'tis I whom they hate, 'tis I whom they would destroy. This form, I fear it has lost its lustre, but still 'tis thine, and once thou saidst thou lovedst it; this form was to have been hacked and mangled; this ivory bosom was to have been ripped up and tortured, and this warm blood, that flows alone for thee, that fell Jabaster was to pour its tide upon the altar of his ancient vengeance. He ever hated me!'

'Jabaster! Schirene! Where are we, and what are we? Life, life, they lie, that call thee Nature! Nature never sent these gusts of agony. Oh! my heart will break. I drove him from my thought, and now she calls him up, and now must I remember he is my-prisoner! God of heaven, God of my fathers, is it come to this? Why did he not escape? Why must Abidan, a common cut-throat, save his graceless life, and this great soul, this stern and mighty being—— Ah me! I have lived long enough. Would they had not failed, would——'

'Stop, stop, Alroy! I pray thee, love, be calm. I came to soothe thee, not to raise thy passions. I did not say Jabaster willed thy death, though Asriel says so; 'tis me he wars against; and if indeed Jabaster be a man so near thy heart, if he indeed be one so necessary to thy prosperity, and cannot live in decent order with thy slave that's here, I know my duty, Sir. I would not have thy fortunes farred to save my single heart, although I think 'twill break. I will go, I will die, and deem the hardest accident of life but sheer prosperity if it profit thee.'

'O Schirene! what wouldst thou? This, this is torture.'

'To see thee safe and happy; nothing more.'

'I am both, if thou art.'

'Care not for me, I am nothing.'

'Thou art all to me.'

'Calm thyself, my soul. It grieves me much that when I came to soothe I have only galled thee. All's well, all's well. Say that Jabaster lives. What then? He lives, and may he prove more duteous than before; that's all.'

'He lives, he is my prisoner, he awaits his doom. It must be given.'

'Yes, yes!'

'Shall we pardon?'

'My lord will do that which it pleases him.'

'Nay, nay, Schirene, I pray thee be more kind. I am most wretched. Speak, what wouldst thou?'

'If I must speak, I say at once, his life.'

'Ah me!'

'If our past loves have any charm, if the hope ot future joy, not less supreme, be that which binds thee to this shadowy world, as it does me, and does alone, I say his life, his very carnal life. He stands between us and our loves, Alroy, and ever has done. There is no happiness if Jabaster breathe; nor can I be the same Schirene to thee as I have been, if this proud rebel live to spy my conduct.'

'Banish him, banish him!'

'To herd with rebels. Is this thy policy?'

'O Schirene! I love not this man, although me-thinks I should: yet didst thou know but all!'

'I know too much, Alroy. From the first he has been to me a hateful thought. Come, come, sweet bird, a boon, a boon unto thy own Schirene, who was so frightened by these wicked men! I fear it has done more mischief than thou deemest. Ay! robbed us of our hopes. It may be so. A boon, a boon! It is not much I ask: a traitor's head. Come, give me thy signet ring. It will not; nay, then, I'll take it. What, resist! I know thou oft hast told me a kiss could vanquish all denial. There it is. Is't sweet? Shalt have another, and another too. I've got the ring! Farewell, my lovely bird, I'll soon return to pillow in thy nest.'

'She has got the ring! What's this? what's this? Schirene! art gone? Nay, surely not. She jests. Jabaster! A traitor's head! What ho! there. Pharez, Pharez!'

'My lord.'

'Passed the Queen that way?'

'She did, my lord.'

'In tears?'

'Nay! very joyful!'

'Call Honain, quick as my thought. Honain! Honain! He waits without. I have seen the best of life, that's very sure. My heart is cracking. She surely jests! Hah! Honain. Pardon these distracted looks. Fly to the Armoury! fly, fly!'

'For what, my lord?'

'Ay! for what, for what! My brain it wanders. Thy brother, thy great brother, the Queen, the Queen has stolen my signet ring, that is, I gave it her. Fly, fly! or in a word, Jabaster is no more. He is gone. Pharez! your arm; I swoon!'

'His Highness is sorely indisposed to-day.'

'They say he swooned this morn.'

'Ay, in the bath.'

'No, not in the bath. 'Twas when he heard of Jabaster's death.'

'How died he, Sir?'

'Self-strangled. His mighty heart could not endure disgrace, and thus he ended all his glorious deeds.'

'A great man!'

'We shall not soon see his match. The Queen had gained his pardon, and herself flew to the Armoury to bear the news; alas! too late.'

'These are strange times. Jabaster dead!'

'A very great event.'

'Who will be High Priest?'

'I doubt if the appointment will be filled up.'

'Sup you with the Lord Ithamar to-night?'

'I do.'

'I also. We'll go together. The Queen had gained his pardon. Hum! 'tis strange.'

'Passing so. They say Abidan has escaped?'

'I hear it. Shall we meet Medad to-night?'

''Tis likely.'



CHAPTER X.

The Fall of Alroy

SHE comes not yet! her cheerful form, not yet it sparkles in our mournful sky. She comes not yet! the shadowy stars seem sad and lustreless without their Queen. She comes not yet!'

'WE ARE THE WATCHERS OF THE MOON,[78] AND LIVE IN LONELINESS TO HERALD LIGHT.'

'She comes not yet! her sacred form, not yet it summons to our holy feast. She comes not yet! our brethren far wait mute and motionless the saintly beam. She comes not yet!'

'WE ARE THE WATCHERS OF THE MOON, AND LIVE IN LONELINESS TO HERALD LIGHT.'

'She comes, she comes! her beauteous form sails with soft splendour in the glittering air. She comes, she comes! The beacons fire, and tell the nation that the month begins! She comes, she comes!'

'WE ARE THE WATCHERS OF THE MOON, TO TELL THE NATION THAT THE MONTH BEGINS.'

Instantly the holy watchers fired the beacons on the mountain top, and anon a thousand flames blazed round the land. From Caucasus to Lebanon, on every peak a crown of light.

'Sire! a Tatar has arrived from Hamadan, who will see none but thyself. I have told him your Highness was engaged, and sent him to the Lord Honain; but all denial is lost upon him. And as I thought perhaps the Lady Miriam——'

'From Hamadan? You did well, Pharez. Admit him.'

The Tatar entered.

'Well, Sir; good news, I hope!'

'Sire, pardon me, the worst. I come from the Lord Abner, with orders to see the Caliph, and none else.'

'Well, Sir, you see the Caliph. Your mission? What of the Viceroy?'

'Sire, he bade me tell thee, that, the moment the beacon that announced the Feast of the New Moon was fired on Caucasus, the dreaded monarch of Karasme, the great Alp Arslan, entered thy kingdom, and now overruns all Persia.'

'Hah! and Abner?'

'Is in the field, and prays for aid.'

'He shall have it. This is indeed great news! When left you Hamadan?'

'Night and day I have journeyed upon the swiftest dromedary. The third morn sees me at Bagdad.'

'You have done your duty. See this faithful courier be well tended, Pharez. Summon the Lord Honain.'

'Alp Arslan! Hah! a very famous warrior. The moment the beacon was fired. No sudden impulse then, but long matured. I like it not.'

'Sire,' said Pharez, re-entering, 'a Tatar has arrived from the frontiers of the province, who will see none but thyself. I have told him your Highness was deeply busied, and as methinks he brings but the same news, I——'

''Tis very likely; yet never think, good Pharez. I'll see the man.' The Tatar entered.

'Well, Sir, how now! from whom?'

'From Mozul. The Governor bade me see the Caliph and none else, and tell your Highness that the moment the beacon that announced the Feast of the New Moon was fired on the mountains, the fell rebel Abidan raised the standard of Judah in the province, and proclaimed war against your Majesty.'

'In any force?'

'The royal power keeps within their walls.'

'Sufficient answer. Part of the same movement. We shall have some trouble. Hast summoned Honain?'

'I have, Sire.'

'Go, see this messenger be duly served, and, Pharez, come hither: let none converse with them. You understand?'

'Your Highness may assure yourself.'

'Abidan come to life. He shall not escape so well this time. I must see Scherirah. I much suspect——what's this? More news!'

A third Tatar entered.

'May it please your Highness, this Tatar has arrived from the Syrian frontier.'

'Mischief in the wind, I doubt not. Speak out, knave!'

'Sire! pardon me; I bear but sad intelligence.'

'Out with the worst!'

'I come from the Lord Medad.'

'Well! has he rebelled? It seems a catching fever.'

'Ah! no, dread Sire, Lord Medad has no thought but for thy glory. Alas! alas! he has now to guard it against fearful odds. Lord Medad bade me see the Caliph and none else, and tell your Highness, that the moment the beacon which announced the Feast of the New Moon was fired on Lebanon, the Sultan of Roum and the old Arabian Caliph unfurled the standard of their Prophet, in great array, and are now marching towards Bagdad.'

'A clear conspiracy! Has Honain arrived? Summon a council of the Vizirs instantly. The world is up against me. Well! I'm sick of peace. They shall not find me napping!'

'You see, my lords,' said Alroy, ere the council broke up, 'we must attack them singly. There can be no doubt of that. If they join, we must combat at great odds. 'Tis in detail that we must route them. I will myself to Persia. Ithamar must throw himself between the Sultan and Abidan, Medad fall back on Ithamar. Scherirah must guard the capital. Honain, you are Regent. And so farewell. I shall set off to-night. Courage, brave companions. 'Tis a storm, but many a cedar survives the thunderbolt.'

The council broke up.

'My own Scherirah!' said the Caliph, as they retired, 'stay awhile. I would speak with you alone. Honain,' continued Alroy, following the Grand Vizir out of the chamber, and leaving Scherirah alone, 'Honain, I have not yet interchanged a word with you in private. What think you of all this?'

'Sire, I am prepared for the worst, but hope the best.'

''Tis wise. If Abner could only keep that Karasmian in check! I am about to speak with Scherirah alone. I do suspect him much.'

'I'll answer for his treason.'

'Hah! I do suspect him. Therefore I give him no command. I would not have him too near his old companion, eh? We will garrison the city with his rebels.'

'Sire, these are not moments to be nice. Scherirah is a valiant captain, a very valiant captain, but lend me thy signet ring, I pray thee, Sire.'

Alroy turned pale.

'No, Sir, it has left me once, and never shall again. You have touched upon a string that makes me sad. There is a burden on my conscience, why, or what, I know not. I am innocent, you know I am innocent, Honain!'

'I'll answer for your Highness. He who has enough of the milk of human kindness to spare a thing like Scherirah, when he stands in his way, may well be credited for the nobler mercy that spared his better.'

'Ah me! there's madness in the thought. Why is he not here? Had I but followed; tush! tush! Go see the Queen, and tell her all that has happened. I'll to Scherirah.'

The Caliph returned.

'Thy pardon, brave Scherirah; in these moments my friends will pardon lapse of courtesy.'

'Your Highness is too considerate.'

'You see, Scherirah, how the wind blows, brave heart. There's much to do, no doubt. I am in sad want of some right trusty friend, on whose devoted bosom I can pillow all my necessities. I was thinking of sending you against this Arslan, but perhaps 'tis better that I should go myself. These are moments one should not seem to shrink, and yet we know not how affairs may run; no, we know not. The capital, the surrounding province: one disaster and these false Moslemin may rise against us. I should stay here, but if I leave Scherirah, I leave myself. I feel that deeply; 'tis a consolation. It may be that I must fall back upon the city. Be prepared, Scherirah. Let me fall back upon supporting friends. You have a great trust. Oh! use it wisely! Worthily I am sure you must do.'

'Your Highness may rest assured I have no other thought but for your weal and glory. Doubt not my devotion, Sire. I am not one of those mealy-mouthed youths, full of their own deeds and lip-worship, Sire, but I have a life devoted to your service, and ready at all times to peril all things.'

'I know that, Scherirah, I know it; I feel it deeply. What think you of these movements?'

'They are not ill combined, and yet I doubt not your Majesty will prove your fortunes most triumphant.'

'Think you the soldiery are in good cue?' 'I'll answer for my own. They are rough fellows, like myself, a little too blunt, perhaps, your Highness. We are not holiday guards, but we know our duty, and we will do it.'

'That's well, that's all I want. I shall review the troops before I go. Let a donative be distributed among them; and, 'by-the-bye, I have always forgotten it, your legion should be called the Legion of Syria. We owe our fairest province to their arms.'

'I shall convey to them your Highness' wish. Were it possible, 'twould add to their devotion.'

'I do not wish it. They are my very children. Sup at the Serail to-night, Scherirah. We shall be very private. Yet let us drink together ere we part. We are old friends, you know. Hast not forgotten our ruined city?'

Alroy entered the apartment of Schirene. 'My soul! thou knowest all?'

She sprang forward and threw her arms around his neck.

'Fear not, my life, we'll not disgrace our Queen. 'Twill be quick work. Two-thirds of them have been beaten before, and for the new champion, our laurels must not fade, and his blood shall nourish fresh ones.'

'Dearest, dearest Alroy, go not thyself, I pray thee. May not Asriel conquer?'

'I hope so, in my company. For a time we part, a short one. 'Tis our first parting: may it be our last!'

'Oh! no, no, no: oh! say not we must part.'

'The troops are under arms; to-morrow's dawn will hear my trumpet.'

'I will not quit thee, no! I will not quit thee. What business has Schirene without Alroy? Hast thou not often told me I am thy inspiration? In the hour of danger shall I be wanting? Never! I will not quit thee; no, I will not quit thee.'

'Thou art ever present in my thoughts, my soul. In the battle I shall think of her for whom alone I conquer.'

'Nay, nay, I'll go, indeed I must, Alroy. I'll be no hindrance, trust me, sweet boy, I will not. I'll have no train, no, not a single maid. Credit me, I know how a true soldier's wife should bear herself. I'll watch thee sleeping, and I'll tend thee wounded, and when thou goest forth to combat I'll gird thy sabre round thy martial side, and whisper triumph with victorious kisses.'

'My own Schirene, there's victory in thine eyes. We'll beat them, girl.'

'Abidan, doubly false Abidan! would he were doubly hanged! Ere she died, the fatal prophetess foretold this time, and gloated on his future treachery.'

'Think not of him.'

'And the Karasmian; think you he is very strong?' 'Enough, love, for our glory. He is a potent warrior: I trust that Abner will not rob us of our intended victory.'

'So you triumph, I care not by whose sword. Dost go indeed to-morrow?'

'At break of dawn. I pray thee stay, my sweet!' 'Never! I will not quit thee. I am quite prepared. At break of dawn? 'Tis near on midnight now. I'll lay me down upon this couch awhile, and travel in my litter. Art sure Alp Arslan is himself in the field?'

'Quite sure, my sweet.'

'Confusion on his crown! We'll conquer. Goes Asriel with us?' 'Ay!'

'That's well; at break of dawn. I'm somewhat drowsy. Methinks I'll sleep awhile.'

'Do, my best heart; I'll to my cabinet, and at break of dawn I'll wake thee with a kiss.'

The Caliph repaired to his cabinet, where his secretaries were occupied in writing. As he paced the chamber, he dictated to them the necessary instructions.

'Who is the officer on guard?'

'Benaiah, Sire.'

'I remember him. He saved me a broken skull upon the Tigris. This is for him. The Queen accompanies us. She is his charge. These papers for the Vizir. Let the troops be under arms by daybreak. This order of the day for the Lord Asriel. Send this instantly to Hamadan. Is the Tatar despatched to Medad? 'Tis well. You have done your duty. Now to rest. Pharez?'

'My lord.'

'I shall not sleep to-night. Give me my drink. Go rest, good boy. I have no wants. Good night.'

'Good night, my gracious lord!'

'Let me ponder! I am alone. I am calm, and yet my spirit is not quick. I am not what I was. Four-and-twenty hours ago who would have dreamed of this? All at stake again! Once more in the field, and struggling at once for empire and existence! I do lack the mighty spirit of my former days. I am not what I was. I have little faith. All about me seems changed, and dull, and grown mechanical. Where are those flashing eyes and conquering visages that clustered round me on the battle eve, round me, the Lord's anointed? I see none such. They are changed, as I am. Why! this Abidan was a host, and now he fights against me. She spoke of the prophetess; I remember that woman was the stirring trumpet of our ranks, and now where is she? The victim of my justice! And where is he, the mightier far, the friend, the counsellor, the constant guide, the master of my boyhood; the firm, the fond, the faithful guardian of all my bright career; whose days and nights were one unbroken study to make me glorious? Alas! I feel more like a doomed and desperate renegade than a young hero on the eve of battle, flushed with the memory of unbroken triumphs!

'Hah! what awful form art thou that risest from the dusky earth before me? Thou shouldst be one I dare not name, yet will: the likeness of Jabaster. Away! why frownest thou upon me? I did not slay thee. Do I live, or dream, or what? I see him, ay! I see thee. I fear thee not, I fear nothing. I am Alroy.

'Speak, oh speak! I do conjure thee, mighty spectre, speak. By all the memory of the past, although 'tis madness, I do conjure thee, let me hear again the accents of my boyhood.'

'Alroy, Alroy, Alroy!'

'I listen, as to the last trump.'

'Meet me on the plain of Nehauend.'

''Tis gone! As it spoke it vanished. It was Jabaster! God of my fathers, it was Jabaster! Life is growing too wild. My courage is broken! I could lie down and die. It was Jabaster! The voice sounds in my ear like distant thunder: "Meet me on the plain of Nehauend." I'll not fail thee, noble ghost, although I meet my doom. Jabaster! Have I seen Jabaster! Indeed! indeed! Methinks I'm mad. Hah! What's that?'

An awful clap of thunder broke over the palace, followed by a strange clashing sound that seemed to come from one of the chambers. The walls of the Serail rocked.

'An earthquake!' exclaimed Alroy. 'Would that the earth would open and swallow all! Hah! Pharez, has it roused thee, too? Pharez, we live in strange times.'

'Your Highness is very pale.'

'And so art thou, lad! Wouldst have me merry? Pale! we may well be pale, didst thou know all. Hah! that awful sound again! I cannot bear it, Pharez, I cannot bear it. I have borne many things, but this I cannot.'

'My lord, 'tis in the Armoury.'

'Run, see. No, I'll not be alone. Where's Benaiah? Let him go. Stay with me, Pharez, stay with me. I pray thee stay, my child.'

Pharez led the Caliph to a couch, on which Alroy lay pale and trembling. In a few minutes he inquired whether Benaiah had returned.

'Even now he comes, Sire.'

'Well, how is it?'

'Sire! a most awful incident. As the thunder broke over the palace, the sacred standard fell from its resting-place, and has shivered into a thousand pieces. Strange to say, the sceptre of Solomon can neither be found nor traced.'

'Say nothing of the past, as ye love me, lads. Let none enter the Armoury. Leave me, Benaiah, leave me, Pharez.'

They retired. Alroy watched their departure with a glance of inexpressible anguish. The moment that they had disappeared, he flew to the couch, and throwing himself upon his knees, and, covering his face with his hands, burst into passionate tears, and exclaimed, 'O! my God, I have deserted thee, and now thou hast deserted me!'

Sleep crept over the senses of the exhausted and desperate Caliph. He threw himself upon the divan, and was soon buried in profound repose. He might have slept an hour; he awoke suddenly. From the cabinet in which he slept, you entered a vast hall, through a lofty and spacious arch, generally covered with drapery, which was now withdrawn. To the astonishment of Alroy, this presence-chamber appeared at this moment to blaze with light. He rose from his couch, he advanced; he perceived, with feelings of curiosity and fear, that the hall was filled with beings, terrible indeed to behold, but to his sight more terrible than strange. In the colossal and mysterious forms that lined the walls of the mighty chamber, and each of which held in its extended arm a streaming torch, he recognised the awful Afrites. At the end of the hall, upon a sumptuous throne, surrounded by priests and courtiers, there was seated a monarch, on whom Alroy had before gazed, Solomon the Great! Alroy beheld him in state and semblance the same Solomon, whose sceptre the Prince of the Captivity had seized in the royal tombs of Judah.

The strange assembly seemed perfectly unconscious of the presence of the child of Earth, who, with a desperate courage, leant against a column of the arch, and watched, with wonder, their mute and motionless society. Nothing was said, nothing done. No one moved, no one, even by gesture, seemed sensible of the presence of any other apparition save himself.

Suddenly there advanced from the bottom of the hall, near unto Alroy, a procession. Pages and dancing girls, with eyes of fire and voluptuous gestures, warriors with mighty arms, and venerable forms with ample robes and flowing beards. And, as they passed, even with all the activity of their gestures, they made no sound; neither did the musicians, whereof there was a great band playing upon harps and psalteries, and timbrels and cornets, break, in the slightest degree, the almighty silence.

This great crowd poured on in beautiful order, the procession never terminating, yet passing thrice round the hall, bowing to him that was upon the throne, and ranging themselves in ranks before the Afrites.

And there came in twelve forms, bearing a great seal: the stone green, and the engraven characters of living flame, and the characters were those on the talisman of Jabaster, which Alroy still wore next to his heart. And the twelve forms placed the great seal before Solomon, and humbled themselves, and the King bowed. At the same moment Alroy was sensible of a pang next to his heart. He instantly put his hand to the suffering spot, and lo! the talisman crumbled into dust.

The procession ceased; a single form advanced. Recent experience alone prevented Alroy from sinking before the spectre of Jabaster. Such was the single form. It advanced, bearing the sceptre. It advanced, it knelt before the throne, it offered the sceptre to the crowned and solemn vision. And the form of Solomon extended its arm, and took the sceptre, and instantly the mighty assembly vanished!

Alroy advanced immediately into the chamber, but all was dark and silent. A trumpet sounded. He recognised the note of his own soldiery. He groped his way to a curtain, and, pulling it aside, beheld the first streak of dawn.

Once more upon his charger, once more surrounded by his legions, once more his senses dazzled and inflamed by the waving banners and the inspiring trumpets, once more conscious of the power still at his command, and the mighty stake for which he was about to play, Alroy in a great degree recovered his usual spirit and self-possession. His energy returned with his excited pulse, and the vastness of the impending danger seemed only to stimulate the fertility of his genius.

He pushed on by forced marches towards Media, at the head of fifty thousand men. At the end of the second day's march, fresh couriers arrived from Abner, informing him that, unable to resist the valiant and almost innumerable host of the King of Karasme, he had entirely evacuated Persia, and had concentrated his forces in Louristan. Alroy, in consequence of this information, despatched orders to Scherirah, to join him with his division instantly, and leave the capital to its fate.

They passed again the mountains of Kerrund, and joined Abner and the army of Media, thirty thousand strong, on the river Abzah. Here Alroy rested one night, to refresh his men, and on the ensuing morn pushed on to the Persian frontier, unexpectedly attacked the advanced posts of Alp Arslan, and beat them back with great loss into the province. But the force of the King of Karasme was so considerable, that the Caliph did not venture on a general engagement, and therefore he fell back, and formed in battle array upon the neighbouring plain of Nehauend, the theatre of one of his earliest and most brilliant victories, where he awaited the hourly-expected arrival of Scherirah.

The King of Karasme, who was desirous of bringing affairs to an issue, and felt confident in his superior force, instantly advanced. In two or three days at farthest, it was evident that a battle must be fought that would decide the fate of the East.

On the morn ensuing their arrival at Nehauend, while the Caliph was out hunting, attended only by a few officers, he was suddenly attacked by an ambushed band of Karasmians. Alroy and his companions defended themselves with such desperation that they at length succeeded in beating off their assailants, although triple their number. The leader of the Karasmians, as he retreated, hurled a dart at the Caliph, which must have been fatal, had not a young officer of the guard interposed his own breast, and received the deadly wound. The party, in confusion, returned with all speed to the camp, Alroy himself bearing the expiring victim of desperate loyalty and military enthusiasm.

The bleeding officer was borne to the royal pavilion, and placed upon the imperial couch. The most skilful leech was summoned; he examined the wound, but shook his head. The dying warrior was himself sensible of his desperate condition. His agony could only be alleviated by withdrawing the javelin, which would occasion his immediate decease. He desired to be left alone with his Sovereign.

'Sire!' said the officer, 'I must die; and I die without a pang. To die in your service, I have ever considered the most glorious end. Destiny has awarded it to me;, and if I have not met my fate upon the field of battle, it is some consolation that my death has preserved the most valuable of lives. Sire! I have a sister.'

'Waste not thy strength, dear friend, in naming her. Rest assured I shall ever deem thy relatives my own.'

'I doubt it not. Would I had a thousand lives for such a master! I have a burden on my conscience, Sire, nor can I die in peace unless I speak of it.'

'Speak, speak freely. If thou hast injured any one, and the power or wealth of Alroy can redeem thy oppressed spirit, he will not spare, he will not spare, be assured of that.'

'Noble, noble master, I must be brief; for, although, while this javelin rests within my body, I yet may live, the agony is great. Sire, the deed of which I speak doth concern thee.'

'Ay!'

'I was on guard the day Jabaster died.'

'Powers of heaven! I am all ear. Speak on, speak on!'

'He died self-strangled, so they say?'

'So they ever told me.'

'Thou art innocent, thou art innocent! I thank my God, my King is innocent!'

'Rest assured of that, as there is hope in Israel. Tell me all.'

'The Queen came with the signet ring. To such authority I yielded way. She entered, and after her, the Lord Honain. I heard high words! I heard Jabaster's voice. He struggled, yes! he struggled; but his mighty form, wounded and fettered, could not long resist. Foul play, foul play, Sire! What could I do against such adversaries? They left the chamber with a stealthy step. Her eyes met mine. I never could forget that fell and glittering visage.'

'Thou ne'er hast spoken of this awful end?'

'To none but thee. And why I speak it now I cannot tell, save that it seems some inspiration urges me; and methinks they who did this may do even feller works, if such there be.'

'Thou hast robbed me of all peace and hope of peace; and yet I thank thee. Now I know the worth of life. I have never loved to think of that sad day; and yet, though I have sometimes dreamed of villainous work, the worst were innocence to thy dread tale.'

'Tis told; and now I pray thee secure thy secret, by drawing from my agonised frame this javelin.'

'Trusty heart, 'tis a sad office.'

'I die with joy if thou performest it.'

''Tis done.'

'God save Alroy.'

While Alroy, plunged in thought, stood over the body of the officer, there arose a flourish of triumphant music, and a eunuch, entering the pavilion, announced the arrival of Schirene from Kerrund. Almost immediately afterwards, the Princess descending from her litter, entered the tent; Alroy tore off his robe, and threw it over the corpse.

'My own,' exclaimed the Princess, as she ran up to the Caliph. 'I have heard all. Be not alarmed for me. I dare look upon a corpse. You know I am a soldier's bride. I am used to blood.'

'Alas!'

'Why so pale? Thou dost not kiss me! Has this unhinged thee so? 'Tis a sad deed; and yet tomorrow's dawn may light up thousands to as grim a fate. Why? thou tremblest! Alas! kind soul! The single death of this fond, faithful heart hath quite upset my love. Yet art thou used to battle. Why! this is foolishness. Art not glad to see me? What, not one smile! And I have come to fight for thee! I will be kissed!'

She flung herself upon his neck. Alroy faintly returned her embrace, and bore her to a couch. He clapped his hands, and two soldiers entered and bore away the corpse.

'The pavilion, Schirene, is now fitter for thy presence. Rest thyself; I shall soon return.' Thus speaking, he quitted her.

He quitted her; but her humbled look of sorrowful mortification pierced to his heart. He thought of all her love and all her loveliness, he called to mind all the marvellous story of their united fortunes. He felt that for her and her alone he cared to live, that without her quick sympathy, even success seemed unendurable. His judgment fluctuated in an eddy of passion and reason. Passion conquered. He dismissed from his intelligence all cognizance of good and evil; he determined, under all circumstances, to cling ever to her; he tore from his mind all memory of the late disclosure. He returned to the pavilion with a countenance beaming with affection; he found her weeping, he folded her in his arms, he kissed her with a thousand kisses, and whispered between each kiss his ardent love.

'Twas midnight. Schirene reposed in the arms of Alroy. The Caliph, who was restless and anxious for the arrival of Scherirah, was scarcely slumbering when the sound of a voice thoroughly aroused him. He looked around; he beheld the spectre of Jabaster. His hair stood on end, his limbs seemed to loosen, a cold dew crept over his frame, as he gazed upon the awful form within a yard of his couch. Unconsciously he disembarrassed his arms of their fair burden, and, rising on the couch, leant forward.

'Alroy, Alroy, Alroy!'

'I am here.'

'To-morrow Israel is avenged!'

'Who is that?' exclaimed the Princess, wakening.

In a frenzy of fear, Alroy, quite forgetting the spectre, turned and pressed his hand over her eyes. When he again looked round the apparition was invisible.

'What wouldst thou, Alroy?'

'Nothing, sweet! A soldier's wife must bear strange sights, yet I would save you some. One of my men, forgetful you were here, burst into my tent in such a guise as scarce would suit a female eye. I must away, my child. I'll call thy slaves. One kiss! Farewell! but for a time.'

'"To-morrow Israel will be avenged." What! in Karasmian blood? I have no faith. No matter. All is now beyond my influence. A rushing destiny carries me onward. I cannot stem the course, nor guide the vessel. How now! Who is the officer on guard?'

'Benomi, Sire, thy servant.'

'Send to the Viceroy. Bid him meet me here. Who is this?'

'A courier from the Lord Scherirah, Sire, but just arrived. He passed last night the Kerrund mountains, Sire, and will be with you by the break of day.'

'Good news. Go fetch Abner. Haste! He'll find me here anon. I'll visit the camp awhile. Well, my brave fellows, you have hither come to conquer again with Alroy. You have fought before, I warrant, on the plain of Nehauend. 'Tis a rich soil, and shall be richer with Karasmian gore.'

'God save your Majesty! Our lives are thine.'

'Please you, my little ruler,' said a single soldier, addressing Alroy; 'pardon my bluntness, but I knew you before you were a Caliph.'

'Stout heart, I like thy freedom. Pr'ythee say on.'

'I was a-saying, I hope you will lead us in the charge to-morrow. Some say you will not.'

'They say falsely.'

'I thought so. I'll ever answer for my little ruler, but then the Queen?'

'Is a true soldier's wife, and lives in the camp.'

'That's brave! There, I told you so, comrades; you would not believe me, but I knew our little ruler before you did. I lived near the gate at Hamadan, please your Highness: old Shelomi's son.'

'Give me thy hand; a real friend. What is't ye eat here, boys? Let me taste your mess. I'faith I would my cook could dress me such a pilau! Tis admirable!'

The soldiers gathered round their chieftain with eyes beaming with adoration. 'Twas a fine picture, the hero in the centre, the various groups around, some conversing with him, some cooking, some making coffee, all offering him by word or deed some testimonial of their devotion, and blending with that devotion the most perfect frankness.

'We shall beat them, lads!'

'There is no fear with you, you always conquer.'

'I do my best, and so do you. A good general without good troops is little worth.'

'I'faith that's true. One must have good troops. What think you of Alp Arslan?'

'I think he may give us as much trouble as all our other enemies together, and that's not much.'

'Brave, brave! God save Alroy!'

Benomi approached, and announced that the Viceroy was in attendance.

'I must quit you, my children,' said Alroy. 'We'll sup once more together when we have conquered.'

'God save you, Sire; and we will confound your enemies.'

'Good night, my lads. Ere the dawn break we may have hot work.'

'We are ready, we are ready. God save Alroy.'

'They are in good cue, and yet 'twas a different spirit that inspired our early days. That I strongly feel. These are men true to a leader who has never failed them, and confident in a cause that leads to plunder. They are but splendid mercenaries.

No more. Oh! where are now the fighting men of Judah! Where are the men who, when they drew their scimitars, joined in a conquering psalm of holy triumph! Last eve of battle you would have thought the field a mighty synagogue. Priests and altars, flaming sacrifices, and smoking censers, groups of fiery zealots hanging with frenzy on prophetic lips, and sealing with their blood and holiest vows a solemn covenant to conquer Canaan. All is changed, as I am. How now, Abner? You are well muffled!'

'Is it true Scherirah is at hand?'

'I doubt not all is right. Would that the dawn would break!'

'The enemy is advancing. Some of their columns are in sight. My scouts have dodged them. They intend doubtless to form upon the plain.'

'They are in sight, eh! Then we will attack them at once ere they are formed. Rare, rare! We'll beat them yet. Courage, dear brother. Scherirah will be here at dawn in good time, very good time: very, very good time.'

'I like the thought'

'The men are in good heart. At break of dawn, charge with thirty thousand cavalry upon their forming ranks. I'll take the right, Asriel the left. It shall be a family affair, dear Abner. How is Miriam?'

'I heard this morn, quite well. She sends you her love and prayers. The Queen is here?'

'She came this eve. Quite well.'

'She must excuse all courtesy.'

'Say nothing. She is a soldier's wife. She loves thee well, dear Abner.'

'I know that. I hope my sword may guard her children's throne.'

'Well, give thy orders. Instant battle, eh?'

'Indeed I think so.'

'I'll send couriers to hurry Scherirah. All looks well. Reserve the guard.'

'Ay, ay! Farewell, dear Sire. When we meet again, I trust your enemies may be your slaves!'

At the first streak of dawn the Hebrew cavalry, with the exception of the Guard, charged the advancing columns of the Karasmians with irresistible force, and cut them in pieces. Alp Arslan rallied his troops, and at length succeeded in forming his main body in good order. Alroy and Asriel led on their divisions, and the battle now became general. It raged for several hours, and was on both sides well maintained. The slaughter of the Karasmians was great, but their stern character and superior numbers counterbalanced for a time all the impetuosity of the Hebrews and all the energy of their leaders. This day Alroy threw into the shade all his former exploits. Twelve times he charged at the head of the Sacred Guard, and more than once penetrated to the very pavilion of Alp Arslan.

In vain he endeavoured singly, and hand to hand, to meet that famous chieftain. Both monarchs fought in the ranks, and yet Fate decided that their scimitars should never cross. Four hours before noon, it was evident to Alroy, that, unless Scherirah arrived, he could not prevail against the vast superiority of numbers. He was obliged early to call his reserve into the field, and although the number of the slain on the side of Arslan exceeded any in the former victories of the Hebrews, still the Karasmians maintained an immense front, which was constantly supplied by fresh troops. Confident in his numbers, and aware of the weakness of his antagonists, Arslan contented himself with acting on the defensive, and wearying his assailants by resisting their terrible and repeated charge.

For a moment, Alroy at the head of the Sacred Guard had withdrawn from the combat. Abner and Asriel still maintained the fight, and the Caliph was at the same time preparing for new efforts, and watching with anxiety for the arrival of Scherirah. In the fifth hour, from an eminence he marked with exultation the advancing banners of his expected succours. Confident now that the day was won, he announced the exhilarating intelligence to his soldiers; and, while they were excited by the animating tidings, led them once more to the charge. It was irresistible; Scherirah seemed to have arrived only for the pursuit, only in time to complete the victory. What then was the horror, the consternation of Alroy, when Benaiah, dashing up to him, informed him that the long-expected succours consisted of the united forces of Scherirah and Abidan, and had attacked him in the rear. Human genius could afford no resource. The exhausted Hebrews, whose energies had been tasked to the utmost, were surrounded. The Karasmians made a general and simultaneous advance. In a few minutes the Hebrew army was thrown into confusion. The stoutest warriors threw away their swords in despair. Every one thought only of self-preservation. Even Abner fled towards Hamadan. Asriel was slain. Alroy, finding it was all over, rushed to his pavilion at the head of about three hundred of the guards, seized the fainting Schirene, threw her before him on his saddle, and cutting his way through all obstacles, dashed into the desert.

For eight-and-forty hours they never stopped. Their band was soon reduced one-third. On the morning of the third day they dismounted and refreshed themselves at a well. Half only regained their saddles. Schirene never spoke. On they rushed again, each hour losing some exhausted co-mate. At length, on the fifth day, about eighty strong, they arrived at a grove of palm-trees. Here they dismounted. And Alroy took Schirene in his arms, and the shade seemed to revive her. She opened her eyes, and pressed his hand and smiled. He gathered her some dates, and she drank some water.

'Our toils will soon be over, sweetest,' he whispered to her; 'I have lost everything but thee.'

Again they mounted, and, proceeding at a less rapid pace, they arrived towards evening at the ruined city, whither Alroy all this time had been directing his course. Dashing down the great street, they at length entered the old amphitheatre. They dismounted. Alroy made a couch with their united cloaks for Schirene. Some collected fuel, great store of which was found, and kindled large fires. Others, while it was yet light, chased the gazelles, and were sufficiently fortunate to provide their banquet, or fetched water from the well known to their leader. In an hour's time, clustering round their fires in groups, and sharing their rude fare, you might have deemed them, instead of the discomfited and luxurious guards of a mighty monarch, the accustomed tenants of this wild abode.

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