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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector


Part X

Chapter 7

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 Karasmé, 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 Karasmé 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 Karasmé, 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.’

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Published @ RC

January 2005