Chapter 5

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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector


Part X

Chapter 5

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 we 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!’

Published @ RC

January 2005

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