IT was twilight: a small and solitary boat, with a single rower,
glided along the Tigris, and stopped at the archway of a house that
descended into the river. It stopped, the boatman withdrew the curtains,
and his single passenger disembarked, and ascended the stairs of
The stranger reached the landing-place, and, unfastening a golden
grate, proceeded along a gallery, and entered a beautiful saloon
of white and green marble, opening into gardens. No one was in the
apartment; the stranger threw himself upon a silver couch, placed
at the side of a fountain that rose from the centre of the chamber
and fell into a porphyry basin. A soft whisper roused the stranger
from his reverie, a soft whisper, that faintly uttered the word
Honain. The stranger looked up, a figure, enveloped
in a veil, that touched the ground, advanced from the gardens.
Honain! said the advancing figure, throwing off the
veil. Honain! Ah! the beautiful mute returned!
A woman more lovely than the rosy morn, beheld an unexpected guest.
They stood, the lady and the stranger, gazing on each other in silence.
A man, with a light, entered the extremity of the hall. Carefully
he closed the portal, slowly he advanced, with a subdued step; he
approached the lady and the stranger.
Alroy! said the astonished Honain, the light fell from
Alroy! exclaimed the lady, with a bewildered air: she
turned pale, and leant against a column.
Daughter of the caliph! said the leader of Israel;
and he advanced, and fell upon his knee, and stole her passive hand.
I am indeed that Alroy to whom destiny has delivered the empire
of thy sire; but the Princess Schirene can have nothing to fear
from one who values above all his victories this memorial of her
goodwill; and he took from his breast a rosary of pearls and
emeralds, and, rising slowly, left it in her trembling hand.
The princess turned and hid her face in her arm, which reclined
against the column.
My kind Honain, said Alroy, you thought me forgetful
of the past; you thought me ungrateful. My presence here proves
that I am not so. I come to enquire all your wishes. I come to gratify
and to fulfil them, if that be in my power.
Sire, replied Honain, who had recovered from the emotion
in which he rarely indulged, and from the surprise which seldom
entrapped him, Sire, my wishes are slight. You see before
you the daughter of my master. An interview, for which I fear I
shall not easily gain that ladys pardon, has made you somewhat
acquainted with her situation and her sentiments. The Princess Schirene
seized the opportunity of the late convulsions to escape from a
mode of life long repugnant to all her feelings, and from a destiny
at which she trembled. I was her only counsellor, and she may feel
assured, a faithful, although perhaps an indiscreet one. The irresistible
solicitation of the inhabitants that I should become their deputy
to their conqueror, prevented us from escaping as we had intended.
Since then, from the movement of the troops, I have deemed it more
prudent that we should remain at present here, although I have circulated
the intelligence of my departure. In the kiosk of my garden, the
princess is now a willing prisoner. At twilight she steals forth
for the poor relaxation of my society, to listen to the intelligence
which I acquire during the day in disguise. The history, sire, is
short and simple. We are in your power: but instead of deprecating
your interference, I now solicit your protection.
Dear Honain, tis needless. The Princess Schirene has only to
express a wish that it may be fulfilled. I came to speak with you
on weighty matters, Honain, but I retire, for I am an intruder now.
To-morrow, if it please you, at this hour, and in this disguise,
I will again repair hither. In the meantime, this lady may perchance
express to you her wishes, and you will bear them to me. If an escort
to any country, if any palace or province for her rule and residence—But
I will not offer to one who should command. Lady! farewell. Pardon
the past! To-morrow, good Honain! prythee let us meet. Good even!