ALROY reposed in this delicious retreat for two days, feeding on
the living dates, and drinking of the fresh water. Fain would he
have lingered, nor indeed, until he rested, had he been sufficiently
conscious of his previous exertion. But the remembrance of his great
mission made him restless, and steeled him to the sufferings which
yet awaited him.
At the dawn of the second day of his journey from the Oasis he
beheld, to his astonishment, faintly but distinctly traced on the
far horizon, the walls and turrets of an extensive city.13
Animated by this unexpected prospect, he continued his progress
for several hours after sunrise. At length, utterly exhausted, he
sought refuge from the over-powering heat beneath the cupola of
the ruined tomb of some Moslem saint. At sunset he continued his
journey, and in the morning found himself within a few miles of
the city. He halted, and watched with anxiety for some evidence
of its inhabitants. None was visible. No crowds or cavalcades issued
from the gates. Not a single human being, not a solitary camel,
moved in the vicinity.
The day was too advanced for the pilgrim to proceed, but so great
was his anxiety to reach this unknown settlement, and penetrate
the mystery of its silence, that ere sunset Alroy entered the gates.
A magnificent city, of an architecture with which he was unacquainted,
offered to his entranced vision its gorgeous ruins and deserted
splendour; long streets of palaces, with their rich line of lessening
pillars, here and there broken by some fallen shaft, vast courts
surrounded by ornate and solemn temples, and luxurious baths adorned
with rare mosaics, and yet bright with antique gilding; now an arch
of triumph, still haughty with its broken friezes; now a granite
obelisk covered with strange characters, and proudly towering over
a prostrate companion; sometimes a void and crumbling theatre, sometimes
a long and elegant aqueduct, sometimes a porphyry column, once breathing
with the heroic statue that now lies shivered at its base, all suffused
with the warm twilight of an eastern eve.
He gazed with wonder and admiration upon the strange and fascinating
scene. The more he beheld, the more his curiosity was excited. He
breathed with difficulty; he advanced with a blended feeling of
eagerness and hesitation. Fresh wonders successively unfolded themselves.
Each turn developed a new scene of still and solemn splendour. The
echo of his step filled him with awe. He looked around him with
an amazed air, a fluttering heart, and a changing countenance. All
was silent: alone the Hebrew Prince stood amid the regal creation
of the Macedonian captains. Empires and dynasties flourish and pass
away; the proud metropolis becomes a solitude, the conquering kingdom
even a desert; but Israel still remains, still a descendant of the
most ancient kings breathed amid these royal ruins, and still the
eternal sun could never rise without gilding the towers of living
Jerusalem. A word, a deed, a single day, a single man, and we might
be a nation.
A shout! he turns, he is seized; four ferocious Kourdish bandits
grapple and bind him.