Part 7, Chapter 18

Part VII

Chapter 18

HUMBLY, but gracefully, the physician of the caliph bowed before the conqueror of the East. His appearance and demeanour afforded a contrast to the aspect of his brother envoys; not less calm or contented his countenance, not less sumptuous or studied his attire, than when he first rescued Alroy in the Bazaar of Bagdad from the gripe of the false Abdallah.

He spoke, and every sound was hushed before the music of his voice.

‘Conqueror of the world, that destiny with which it is in vain to struggle, has placed our lives and fortunes in your power. Your slaves offer for your approbation specimens of their riches; not as tribute, for all is yours; but to show you the products of security and peace, and to induce you to believe that mercy may be a policy as profitable to the conqueror as to the conquered; that it may be better to preserve than to destroy; and wiser to enjoy than to extirpate.

‘Fate ordained that we should be born the slaves of the caliph; that same fate has delivered his sceptre into your hands. We offer you the same devotion that we yielded to him, and we entreat the same protection which he granted to us.

‘Whatever may be your decision, we must bow to your decree with the humility that recognises superior force. Yet we are not without hope. We cannot forget that it is our good fortune not to be addressing a barbarous chieftain, unable to sympathise with the claims of civilisation, the creations of art, and the finer impulses of humanity. We acknowledge your irresistible power, but we dare to hope everything from a prince whose genius all acknowledge and admire, who has spared some portion of his youth from the cares of government and the pursuits of arms to the ennobling claims of learning, whose morality has been moulded by a pure and sublime faith, and who draws his lineage from a sacred and celebrated race, the unrivalled antiquity of which even the Prophet acknowledges.’

He ceased: a buzz of approbation sounded throughout the pavilion, which was hushed instantly as the lips of the conqueror moved.

‘Noble emir,’ replied Alroy, ‘return to Bagdad, and tell your fellow-subjects that the King of Israel grants protection to their persons, and security to their property.’

‘And for their faith?’ enquired the envoy, in a lower voice.

‘Toleration,’ replied Alroy, turning to Jabaster.

‘Until further regulations,’ added the high priest.

‘Emir,’ said Alroy, ‘the person of the caliph will be respected.’

‘May it please your highness,’ replied Honain, ‘the Sultan of Roum has retired with our late ruler.’

‘And his harem?’

‘And his harem.’

‘It was needless. We war not with women.’

‘Men, as well as women, must acknowledge the gracious mercy of your highness.’

‘Benomi,’* said Alroy, addressing himself to a young officer of the guard, ‘command the guard of honour that will attend this noble emir on his return. We soldiers deal only in iron, sir, and cannot vie with the magnificence of Bagdad, yet wear this dagger for the donor’s sake:’ and Alroy held out to Honain a poniard flaming with gems.

The Envoy of Bagdad advanced, took the dagger, pressed it to his lips, and placed it in his vest.64

‘Scherirah,’ continued Alroy, ‘this noble emir is your charge. See that a choice pavilion of the host be for his use, and that his train complain not of the rough customs of our camp.’

‘May it please your highness,’ replied Honain, ‘I have fulfilled my office, and, with your gracious permission, would at once return. I have business only less urgent than the present, because it concerns myself.’

‘As you will, noble emir. Benomi, to your post. Farewell, sir.’

The deputation advanced, bowed, and retired. Alroy turned to Jabaster.

‘No common person that, Jabaster?’

‘A very gracious Turk, sire.’

‘Think you he is a Turk?’

‘By his dress.’

‘It may be so. Asriel, break up the camp. We'll march at once to Bagdad.’