Part 10, Chapter 3

Part X

Chapter 3

‘YOU see, my lords,’ said Alroy, ere the council broke up, ‘we must attack them singly. There can be no doubt of that. If they join, we must combat at great odds. ’Tis in detail that we must rout them. I will myself to Persia. Ithamar must throw himself between the Sultan and Abidan, Medad fall back on Ithamar. Scherirah must guard the capital. Honain, you are Regent. And so farewell. I shall set off to-night. Courage, brave companions. ’Tis a storm, but many a cedar survives the thunderbolt.’

The council broke up.

‘My own Scherirah!’ said the Caliph, as they retired, ‘stay awhile. I would speak with you alone. Honain,’ continued Alroy, following the Grand Vizir out of the chamber, and leaving Scherirah alone, ‘Honain, I have not yet interchanged a word with you in private. What think you of all this?’

‘Sire, I am prepared for the worst, but hope the best.’

‘’Tis wise. If Abner could only keep that Karasmian in check! I am about to speak with Scherirah alone. I do suspect him much.’

‘I’ll answer for his treason.’

‘Hah! I do suspect him. Therefore I give him no command. I would not have him too near his old companion, eh? We will garrison the city with his rebels.’

‘Sire, these are not moments to be nice. Scherirah is a valiant captain, a very valiant captain, but lend me thy signet ring, I pray thee, Sire.’

Alroy turned pale.

‘No, Sir, it has left me once, and never shall again. You have touched upon a string that makes me sad. There is a burden on my conscience, why, or what, I know not. I am innocent, you know I am innocent, Honain!’

‘I'll answer for your Highness. He who has enough of the milk of human kindness to spare a thing like Scherirah, when he stands in his way, may well be credited for the nobler mercy that spared his better.’

‘Ah me! there’s madness in the thought. Why is he not here? Had I but followed; tush! tush! Go see the Queen, and tell her all that has happened. I’ll to Scherirah.’

The Caliph returned.

‘Thy pardon, brave Scherirah; in these moments my friends will pardon lapse of courtesy.’

‘Your Highness is too considerate.’

‘You see, Scherirah, how the wind blows, brave heart. There's much to do, no doubt. I am in sad want of some right trusty friend, on whose devoted bosom I can pillow all my necessities. I was thinking of sending you against this Arslan, but perhaps ’tis better that I should go myself. These are moments one should not seem to shrink, and yet we know not how affairs may run; no, we know not. The capital, the surrounding province: one disaster and these false Moslemin may rise against us. I should stay here, but if I leave Scherirah, I leave myself. I feel that deeply; ’tis a consolation. It may be that I must fall back upon the city. Be prepared, Scherirah. Let me fall back upon supporting friends. You have a great trust. Oh! use it wisely! Worthily I am sure you must do.’

‘Your Highness may rest assured I have no other thought but for your weal and glory. Doubt not my devotion, Sire. I am not one of those mealy-mouthed youths, full of their own deeds and lip-worship, Sire, but I have a life devoted to your service, and ready at all times to peril all things.’

‘I know that, Scherirah, I know it; I feel it deeply. What think you of these movements?’

‘They are not ill combined, and yet I doubt not your Majesty will prove your fortunes most triumphant.’

‘Think you the soldiery are in good cue?’

‘I'll answer for my own. They are rough fellows, like myself, a little too blunt, perhaps, your Highness. We are not holiday guards, but we know our duty, and we will do it.’

‘That’s well, that’s all I want. I shall review the troops before I go. Let a donative* be distributed among them; and, by the bye, I have always forgotten it, your legion should be called the Legion of Syria. We owe our fairest province to their arms.’

‘I shall convey to them your Highness’ wish. Were it possible, ’twould add to their devotion.’

‘I do not wish it. They are my very children. Sup at the Serail to-night, Scherirah. We shall be very private. Yet let us drink together ere we part. We are old friends, you know. Hast not forgotten our ruined city?’