Part 7, Chapter 17

Part VII

Chapter 17

ON the morrow, messengers announced the approach of the deputation. All the troops were under arms. Alroy directed that the suppliants should be conducted through the whole camp before they arrived at the royal pavilion, on each side of which the Sacred Guard was mustered in array. The curtains of his tent withdrawn, displayed the conqueror himself, seated on a sumptuous divan. On his right hand stood Jabaster in his priestly robes, on his left Scherirah. Behind him, the giant Elnebar supported the sacred sceptre. A crowd of chieftains was ranged on each side of the pavilion.

Cymbals sounded, muffled kettle-drums, and the faint flourish of trumpets; the commencement of the procession might be detected in the long perspective of the tented avenue. First came a company of beauteous youths, walking two by two, and strewing flowers, then a band of musicians in flowing robes of cloth of gold, plaintively sounding their silver trumpets. After these followed slaves of all climes, bearing a tribute of the most rare and costly productions of their countries: Negroes with tusks and teeth of the elephant, plumes of ostrich feathers, and caskets of gold dust; Syrians with rich armour; Persians with vases of atar-gul,* and Indians with panniers of pearls of Ormuz,* and soft shawls of Cashmere.* Encircled by his children, each of whom held alternately a white or fawn-coloured gazelle, an Arab, clothed in his blue bornouz,* led by a thick cord of crimson silk a tall and tawny giraffe. Fifty stout men succeeded two by two, carrying in company a silver shield laden with gold coin, or chased goblets studded with gems.

The clash of cymbals announced the presence of the robes of honour,63 culled from the wardrobe of the commander of the Faithful; the silk of Aleppo and the brocade of Damascus, lined with the furs of the sable and the ermine, down from the breast of the swan, and the skins of white foxes.

After these followed two grey dromedaries, with furniture of silver, and many caparisoned horses, each led by a groom in rich attire. The last of these was a snow-white steed, upon whose front was the likeness of a ruby star, a courser of the sacred stud of Solomon, and crossed only by the descendants of the Prophet.

The muffled kettle-drums heralded the company of black eunuchs, with their scarlet vests and ivory battle-axes. They surrounded, and shrouded from the vulgar gaze, fourteen beautiful Circassian girls, whose brilliant visages and perfect forms were otherwise concealed by their long veils and ample drapery.

The gorgeous procession, as they approached the conqueror, bowed humbly to Alroy, and formed in order on each side of the broad avenue. The deputation appeared; twelve of the principal citizens of Bagdad, with folded arms, and downcast eyes, and disordered raiment. Meekly and mutely each touched the earth with his hand, and kissed it in token of submission, and then, moving aside, made way for the chief envoy and orator of the company, Honain!