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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector


Part III

Chapter 1

IT was midnight. Alroy slept upon the couch: his sleep was troubled. Jabaster stood by his side motionless, and gazing intently upon his slumbering guest.

‘The only hope of Israel,’ murmured the Cabalist, ‘my pupil and my prince! I have long perceived in his young mind the seed of mighty deeds, and o’er his future life have often mused with a prophetic hope. The blood of David, the sacred offspring of a solemn race. There is a magic in his flowing veins my science cannot reach.

‘When, in my youth, I raised our standard by my native Tigris, and called our nation to restore their ark, why, we were numerous, wealthy, potent; we were a people then, and they flocked to it boldly. Did we lack counsel? Did we need a leader? Who can aver that Jabaster's brain or arm was ever wanting? And yet the dream dissolved, the glorious vision! Oh! when I struck down Marvan,* and the Caliph’s camp flung its blazing shadow over the bloody river, ah! then indeed I lived. Twenty years of vigil may gain a pardon that I then forgot we lacked the chief ingredient in the spell, the blood that sleeps beside me.

‘I recall the glorious rapture of that sacred strife amid the rocks of Caucasus. A fugitive, a proscribed and outlawed wretch, whose life is common sport, and whom the vilest hind may slay without a bidding. I, who would have been Messiah!

‘Burn thy books, Jabaster; break thy brazen tables; forget thy lofty science, Cabalist, and read the stars no longer.11 But last night, I stood upon the gulf which girds my dwelling: in one hand, I held my sacred talisman, that bears the name ineffable; in the other, the mystic record of our holy race. I remembered that I had evoked spirits, that I had communed with the great departed, and that the glowing heavens were to me a natural language. I recalled, as consolation to my gloomy soul, that never had my science been exercised but for a sacred or a noble purpose. And I remembered Israel, my brave, my chosen, and my antique race, slaves, wretched slaves. I was strongly tempted to fling me down this perilous abyss, and end my learning and my life together.

‘But, as I gazed upon the star of David, a sudden halo rose around its rays, and ever and anon a meteor shot from out the silver veil. I read that there was trouble in the holy seed; and now comes this boy, who has done a deed which—’

‘The ark, the ark! I gaze upon the ark!’

‘The slumberer speaks; the words of sleep are sacred.’

‘Salvation only from the house of David.’

‘A mighty truth; my life too well has proved it.’

‘He is more calm. It is the holy hour. I'll steel into the court, and gaze upon the star that sways the fortunes of his royal house.’

Published @ RC

January 2005

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NaturalFeature