Part 10, Chapter 16

Part X

Chapter 16

TWO stout soldiers were playing chess80 in a coffee-house.

‘May I slay my mother,’ said one, ‘but I cannot make a move. I fought under him at Nehauend; and though I took the amnesty, I have half a mind now to seize my sword and stab the first Turk that enters.’

‘’Twere but sheer justice,’ said his companion. ‘By my father’s blessing, he was the man for a charge. They may say what they like, but compared with him, Alp Arslan is a white-livered Giaour.’

‘Here is confusion to him and to thy last move. There’s the dirhem, I can play no more. May I slay my mother, though, but I did not think he would let himself be taken.’

‘By the blessing of my father, nor I; but then he was asleep.’

‘That makes a difference. He was betrayed.’

‘All brave men are. They say Kisloch and his set pocket their fifty thousand by the job.’

‘May each dirhem prove a plague-spot!’

‘Amen! Dost remember Abner?’

‘May I slay my mother if I ever forget him. He spoke to his men like so many lambs. What has become of the Lady Miriam?’

‘She is here.’

‘That will cut Alroy.’

‘He was ever fond of her. Dost remember she gained Adoram’s* life?’

‘Oh! she could do anything, next to the Queen.’

‘Before her, I say, before her. He has refused the Queen, he never refused the Lady Miriam.’

‘Because she asked less.’

‘Dost know it seemed to me that things never went on so well after Jabaster’s death?’

‘So say I. There was a something, eh?’

‘A sort of a peculiar, as it were, kind of something, eh?’

‘You have well described it. Every man felt the same. I have often mentioned it to my comrades. Say what you like, said I, but slay my mother, if ever since the old man strangled himself, things did not seem, as it were, in their natural propinquity. ’Twas the phrase I used.’

‘A choice one. Unless there is a natural propinquity, the best-arranged matters will fall out. However, the ass sees farther than his rider, and so it was with Alroy, the best commander I ever served under, all the same.’

‘Let us go forth and see how affairs run.’

‘Ay, do. If we hear any one abuse Alroy, we’ll cleave his skull.’

‘That will we. There are a good many of our stout fellows about; we might do something yet.’

‘Who knows?’