Part 8, Chapter 3


Chapter 3

‘THE royal brow was clouded,’ said Ithamar to Asriel, as, departing from the council, they entered their magnificent barque.

‘With thought; he has so much upon his mind, ’tis wondrous how he bears himself.’

‘I have seen him gay on the eve of battle, and lively though calm, with weightier matters than now oppress him. His brow was clouded, but not, methinks, with thought; one might rather say with temper. Mark you, how he rated Jabaster?’

‘Roundly! The stern priest writhed under it; and as he signed the ordinance, shivered his reed in rage. I never saw a man more pale.’

‘Or more silent. He looked like an embodied storm. I tell you what, Asriel, that stern priest loves not us.’

‘Have you just discovered that secret, Ithamar? We are not of his school. Nor, in good faith, is our ruler. I am glad to see the king is so staunch about Abidan. Were he in council he would support Jabaster.’

‘Oh! his mere tool. What think you of Scherirah?’

‘I would not trust him. As long as there is fighting, he will meddle with nothing else; but, mark my words, Ithamar: in quiet times he will support the priest.’

‘Medad will have a place in council. He is with us.’

‘Heart and soul. I would your brother were here, Asriel: he alone could balance Jabaster. Alroy loves your brother like himself. Is it true that he marries the Lady Miriam?

‘So the king wishes. ’Twill be a fine match for Abner.’

‘The world is all before us. I wonder who will be viceroy of Syria.’

‘When we conquer it. Not Scherirah. Mark my words, Ithamar: he never will have a government. You or I perchance. For my own part, I would rather remain as I am.’

‘Yours is a good post; the best.’

‘With the command of the city. It should go with the guard.’

‘Well then help me in getting Syria, and you can ask for my command.’

‘Agreed. Jabaster will have it that, in a Hebrew monarchy, the chief priest is in fact the grand vizir.’

‘Alroy will be his own minister.’

‘I am not so sure of that. He may choose to command the Syrian expedition in person; he must leave some head at Bagdad. Jabaster is no general.’

‘Oh! none at all. Alroy will be glad to leave him at home. The Sultan of Roum may not be always so merciful.’

‘Hah! hah! that was an escape!’

‘By heavens! I thought it was all over. You made a fine charge.’

‘I shall never forget it. I nearly ran over Jabaster.’

‘Would that you had!’