Chapter 5

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
Alroy, Edited by Sheila A. Spector


Part VI

Chapter 5

THE trumpet was sounding to close the gates, as Alroy passed the Sion entrance. The temptation was irresistible. He rushed out, and ran for more than one hundred yards without looking back, and when he did, he had the satisfaction of ascertaining that he was fairly shut out for the night. The sun had set, still the Mount of Olives was flushed with the reflection of his dying beams, but Jehoshaphat at its feet was in deep shadow.

He wandered among the mountains for some time, beholding Jerusalem from a hundred different points of view, and watching the single planets and clustering constellations that gradually burst into beauty, or gathered into light. At length, somewhat exhausted, he descended into the vale. The scanty rill of Siloah45 looked like a thread of silver winding in the moonlight. Some houseless wretches were slumbering under the arch of its fountain. Several isolated tombs of considerable size46 rose at the base of Olivet, and the largest of these Alroy entered. Proceeding through a narrow passage, he entered a small square chamber. On each side was an empty sarcophagus of granite, one with its lid broken. Between these the Prince of the Captivity laid his robe, and, wearied by his ramble, soon soundly slept.

After some hours he woke. He fancied that he had been wakened by the sound of voices. The chamber was not quite dark. A straggling moonbeam fought its way through an open fretwork pattern in the top of the tomb, and just revealed the dim interior. Suddenly a voice spoke, a strange and singular voice.

‘Brother, brother, the sounds of the night begin.’

Another voice answered, ‘Brother, brother, I hear them, too.’

‘The woman in labour!’

‘The thief at his craft!’

‘The sentinel’s challenge!’

‘The murderer’s step!’

‘Oh! the merry sounds of the night!’

‘Brother, brother, let us come forth and wander about the world.’

‘We have seen all things. I’ll lie here and listen to the baying hound. ’Tis music for a tomb.’

‘Choice and rare. You are idle. I like to sport in the starry air. Our hours are few, they should be fair.’

‘What shall we see, Heaven or Earth?’

‘Hell for me, ’tis more amusing.’

‘As for me, I am sick of Hades.’

‘Let us visit Solomon!’

‘In his unknown metropolis?’

‘That will be rare.’

‘But where, oh! where?’

‘Even a spirit cannot tell. But they say, but they say, I dare not whisper what they say.’

‘Who told you?’

‘No one. I overheard an Afrite* whispering to a female Ghoul* he wanted to seduce.’

‘Hah, hah! hah, hah! choice pair, choice pair! We are more ethereal.’

‘She was a beauty in her way. Her eyes were luminous, though somewhat dank, and her cheek tinged with carnation caught from infant blood.’

‘Oh! gay; oh! gay; what said they?’

‘He was a deserter without leave from Solomon’s bodyguard. The trull wriggled the secret out.’

‘Tell me, kind brother.’

‘I'll show, not tell.’

‘I pr’ythee tell me.’

‘Well, then, well. In Genthesma’s gloomy cave there is a river none has reached, and you must sail, and you must sail—Brother!’

‘Ay.’

‘Methinks I smell something too earthly.’

‘What’s that!’

‘The breath of man.’

‘Scent more fatal than the morning air! Away, away!’

Published @ RC

January 2005

City