IF the presence of Kisloch and his companions were not very pleasing
to Alroy, with the rest of the band they soon became great favourites.
Their local knowledge, and their experience of desert life, made
them valuable allies, and their boisterous jocularity and unceasing
merriment were not unwelcome in the present monotonous existence
of the fugitives. As for Alroy himself, he meditated an escape to
Egypt. He determined to seize the first opportunity of procuring
some camels, and then, dispersing his band, with the exception of
Benaiah and a few faithful retainers, he trusted that, disguised
as merchants, they might succeed in crossing Syria, and entering
Africa by Palestine. With these plans and prospects, he became each
day more cheerful and more sanguine as to the future. He had in
his possession some valuable jewels, which he calculated upon disposing
of at Cairo for a sum sufficient for all his purposes; and having
exhausted all the passions of life while yet a youth, he looked
forward to the tranquil termination of his existence in some poetic
solitude with his beautiful companion.
One evening, as they returned from the Oasis, Alroy guiding the
camel that bore Schirene, and ever and anon looking up in her inspiring
face, her sanguine spirit would have indulged in a delightful future.
‘Thus shall we pass the desert, sweet,’ said Schirene. ‘Can this
‘There is no toil with love,’ replied Alroy.
‘And we were made for love, and not for empire,’ rejoined Schirene.
‘The past is a dream,’ said Alroy. ‘So sages teach us; but, until
we act, their wisdom is but wind. I feel it now. Have we ever lived
in aught but deserts, and fed on aught but dates? Methinks ’tis
very natural. But that I am tempted by the security of distant lands,
I could remain here a free and happy outlaw. Time, custom, and necessity
form our natures. When I first met Scherirah in these ruins, I shrank
with horror from degraded man; and now I sigh to be his heir. We
must not think!’
‘No love, we’ll only hope,’ replied Schirene; and they passed through
The night was beautiful, the air was still warm and sweet. Schirene
gazed upon the luminous heavens. ‘We thought not of these sides
when we were at Bagdad,’ she exclaimed; ‘and yet, my life, what
was the brightness of our palaces compared to these? All is left
to us that man should covet, freedom, beauty, and youth. I do believe,
ere long, Alroy, we shall look back upon the wondrous past as on
another and a lower world. Would that this were Egypt! ’Tis my only
‘And it shall soon be gratified. All will soon be arranged. A few
brief days, and then Schirene will mount her camel for a longer
ride than just to gather dates. You’ll make a sorry traveller, I
‘Not I; I’ll tire you all.’
They reached the circus, and seated themselves round the blazing
fire. Seldom had Alroy, since his fall, appeared more cheerful.
Schirene sang an Arab air to the band, who joined in joyous chorus.
It was late ere they sought repose; and they retired to their rest,
sanguine and contented.
A few hours afterwards, at the break of dawn, Alroy was roused
from his slumbers by a rude pressure on his breast. He started;
a ferocious soldier was kneeling over him; he would have spurned
him; he found his hand manacled. He would have risen; his feet were
bound. He looked round for Schirene, and called her name; he was
answered only by a shriek. The amphitheatre was filled with Karasmian
troops. His own men were surprised and overpowered. Kisloch and
the Guebre had been on guard. He was raised from the ground, and
flung upon a camel, which was instantly trotted out of the circus.
On every side he beheld a wild scene of disorder and dismay. He
was speechless from passion and despair. The camel was dragged into
the desert. A body of cavalry instantly surrounded it, and they
set off at a rapid pace. The whole seemed the work of an instant.
How many days had passed Alroy knew not. He had taken no account
of time. Night and day were to him the same. He was in a stupor.
But the sweetness of the air and the greenness of the earth at length
partially roused his attention. He was just conscious that they
had quitted the desert. Before him was a noble river; he beheld
the Euphrates from the very spot he had first viewed it in his pilgrimage.
The strong association of ideas called back his memory. A tear stole
down his cheek; the bitter drop stole to his parched lips; he asked
the nearest horseman for water. The guard gave him a wetted sponge,
with which he contrived with difficulty to wipe his lips, and then
he let it fall to the ground. The Karasmian struck him.
They arrived at the river. The prisoner was taken from the camel
and placed in a covered boat. After some hours they stopped and
disembarked at a small village. Alroy was placed upon an ass with
his back to its head. His clothes were soiled and tattered. The
children pelted him with mud. An old woman, with a fanatic curse,
placed a crown of paper on his brow. With difficulty his brutal
guards prevented their victim from being torn to pieces. And in
such fashion, towards noon of the fourteenth day, David Alroy again