Chapter 3

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Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector


Part V

Chapter 3

THE arched chamber was of great size and beautiful proportion. The ceiling, encrusted with green fretwork, and studded with silver stars, rested upon clustered columns of white and green marble. In the centre of a variegated pavement of the same material, a fountain rose and fell into a green porphyry basin, and by the side of the fountain, upon a couch of silver, reposed Honain.

He raised his eye from the illuminated volume on which he had been long intent; he clapped his hands, and a Nubian slave advanced, and, folding his arms upon his breast, bowed in silence before his lord.

‘How fares the Hebrew boy, Analschar?’*

‘Master, the fever has not returned. We gave him the potion; he slumbered for many hours, and has now awakened, weak but well.’

‘Let him rise and attend me.’

The Nubian disappeared.

‘There is nothing stranger than sympathy,’ soliloquised the physician of the Caliph, with a meditative air; ‘all resolves itself into this principle, and I confess this learned doctor treats it deeply and well. An erudite spirit truly, and an eloquent pen; yet he refines too much. ’Tis too scholastic. Observation will teach us more than dogma. Meditating upon my passionate youth, I gathered wisdom. I have seen so much that I have ceased to wonder. However we doubt, there is a mystery beyond our penetration. And yet ’tis near our grasp. I sometimes deem a step, a single step, would launch us into light. Here comes my patient. The rose has left his cheek, and his deep brow is wan and melancholy. Yet ’tis a glorious visage, Meditation’s throne; and Passion lingers in that languid eye. I know not why, a strong attraction draws me to this lone child.

‘Gentle stranger, how fares it with thee?’

‘Very well, my lord. I come to thank thee for all thy goodness. My only thanks are words, and those too weak; and yet the orphan’s blessing is a treasure.’

‘You are an orphan, then?’

‘I have no parent but my father’s God.’

‘And that God is—’

‘The God of Israel.’

‘So I deemed. He is a Deity we all must honour; if he be the great Creator whom we all allow.’

‘He is what he is, and we are what we are, a fallen people, but faithful still.’

‘Fidelity is strength.’

‘Thy words are truth, and strength must triumph.’

‘A prophecy!’

‘Many a prophet is little honoured, till the future proves his inspiration.’

‘You are young and sanguine.’

‘So was my ancestor within the vale of Elah. But I speak unto a Moslem, and this is foolishness.’

‘I have read something, and can take your drift. As for my faith, I believe in truth, and wish all men to do the same. By the bye, might I inquire the name of him who is the inmate of my house?’

‘They call me David.’

‘David, you have a ring, an emerald cut with curious characters, Hebrew, I believe.’

‘’Tis here.’

‘A fine stone, and this inscription means—’

‘A simple legend, “Parted, but one;” the kind memorial of a brother's love.’

‘Your brother?’

‘I never had a brother.’

‘I have a silly fancy for this ring: you hesitate. Search my palace, and choose the treasures you deem its match.’

‘Noble sir, the gem is little worth; but were it such might deck a Caliph’s brow, ’twere a poor recompense for all thy goodness. This ring is a trust rather than a possession, and strange to say, although I cannot offer it to thee who mayst command, as thou hast saved, the life of its unhappy wearer, some stranger may cross my path to-morrow, and almost claim it as his own.’

‘And that stranger is—’

‘The brother of the donor.’

‘The brother of Jabaster?’

‘Jabaster!’

‘Even so. I am that parted brother.’

‘Great is the God of Israel! Take the ring. But what is this? the brother of Jabaster a turbaned chieftain! a Moslem! Say, but say that thou has not assumed their base belief; say, but say, that thou hast not become a traitor to our covenant, and I will bless the fortunes of this hour.’

‘I am false to no God. Calm thyself, sweet youth. These are higher questions than thy faint strength can master now. Another time we’ll talk of this, my boy; at present of my brother and thyself. He lives and prospers?’

‘He lives in faith; the pious ever prosper.’

‘A glorious dreamer! Though our moods are different, I ever loved him. And thyself? Thou art not what thou seemest. Tell me all. Jabaster’s friend can be no common mind. Thy form has heralded thy fame. Trust me.’

‘I am Alroy.’

‘What! the Prince of our Captivity?’

‘Even so.’

‘The slayer of Alschiroch?’

‘Ay!’

‘My sympathy was prophetic. I loved thee from the first. And what dost thou here? A price is set upon thy head: thou knowest it?’

‘For the first time; but I am neither astonished nor alarmed. I am upon the Lord’s business.’

‘What wouldst thou?’

‘Free his people.’

‘The pupil of Jabaster: I see it all. Another victim to his reveries. I’ll save this boy. David, for thy name must not be sounded within this city, the sun is dying. Let us to the terrace, and seek the solace of the twilight breeze.’

Published @ RC

January 2005

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