Part 8, Chapter 5


Chapter 5

‘THE King is late to-day.’

‘Is it true, Asriel, there is an express from Hamadan?’

‘Of no moment, Ithamar. I had private letters from Abner. All is quiet.’

‘’Tis much past the hour. When do you depart, Scherirah?’

‘The troops are ready. I wait orders. This morning’s council will perchance decide.’

‘This morning’s council is devoted to the settlement of the civil affairs of the capital,’ remarked Jabaster.

‘Indeed!’ said Asriel. ‘Is your report prepared, Jabaster?’

‘’Tis here,’ replied the high priest. ‘The Hebrew legislator requires but little musing to shape his order. He has a model which time cannot destroy, nor thought improve.’

Ithamar and Asriel exchanged significant glances. Scherirah looked solemn. There was a pause, which was broken by Asriel.

‘’Tis a noble city, this Bagdad. I have not yet visited your quarters, Jabaster. You are well placed.’

‘As it may be. I hope we shall not tarry here long. The great point is still not achieved.’

‘How far is it to the holy city?’ enquired Scherirah.

‘A month’s march,’ replied Jabaster.

‘And when you get there?’ enquired Ithamar.

‘You may fight with the Franks,’ replied Asriel.

‘Jasbaster, how large is Jerusalem?’ enquired Ithamar. ‘Is it true, as I have sometimes heard, that it is not bigger than the serail here, gardens and all?’

‘Its glory hath departed,’ replied the high priest; ‘the bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with marble; and Sion, that is now without the Christian walls, shall yet sparkle, as in the olden time, with palaces and pavilions.’

A flourish of trumpets, the portals flew open, and Alroy entered, leaning on the arm of the envoy of Bagdad.

‘Valiant leaders,’ said Alroy to the astonished chieftains, ‘in this noble stranger, you see one like yourselves entrusted with my unbounded confidence. Jabaster, behold thy brother!’

‘Honain! art thou Honain?’ exclaimed the pontiff starting from his seat. ‘I have a thousand messengers after thee.’ With a countenance alternately pallid with surprise and burning with affection, Jabaster embraced his brother, and, overpowered with emotion, hid his face on his shoulder.

‘Sire,’ at length exclaimed the high priest in a low and tremulous voice, ‘I must pray your pardon that for an instant in this character I have indulged in any other thoughts than those that may concern your welfare. ’Tis past: and you, who know all, will forgive me.’

‘All that respects Jabaster must concern my welfare. He is the pillar of my empire;’ and holding forth his hand, Alroy placed the high priest on his right. ‘Scherirah, you depart this eve.’

The rough captain bowed in silence.

‘What is this?’ continued Alroy, as Jabaster offered him a scroll.

‘Ah! your report. “Order of the Tribes,” “Service of the Levites,” “Princes of the People,” “Elders of Israel!” The day may come when this may be effected. At present, Jabaster, we must be moderate, and content ourselves with arrangements which may ensure that order shall be maintained, property respected, and justice administered. Is it true that a gang has rifled a mosque?’

‘Sire! of that I would speak. They are no plunderers, but men, perhaps too zealous, who have read and who have remembered that “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess, served their gods upon the high mountains, and upon the hill, and under every green tree. And ye shall overthrow their altars, and—’*

‘Jabaster, is this a synagogue? Come I to a council of valiant statesmen or dreaming Rabbis? For a thousand years we have been quoting the laws we dared not practise. Is it with such aid that we captured Nishabur and crossed the Tigris? Valiant, wise Jabaster, thou art worthy of better things, and capable of all. I entreat thee, urge such matters for the last time. Are these fellows in custody?’

‘They were in custody. I have freed them.’

‘Freed them! Hang them! Hang them on the most public grove. Is this the way to make the Moslem a duteous subject? Jabaster! Israel honours thee; and I, its chief, know that one more true, more valiant, or more learned, crowds not around our standard; but I see, the caverns of the Caucasus are not a school for empire.’

‘Sire, I had humbly deemed the school for empire was the law of Moses.’

‘Ay! adapted to these times.’

‘Can aught divine be changed?’

‘Am I as tall as Adam?* If man, the crown, the rose of all this fair creation, the most divine of all divine inventions, if Time have altered even this choicest of all godlike works, why shall it spare a law made but to rule his conduct? Good Jabaster, we must establish the throne of Israel, that is my mission, and for the means, no matter how, or where. Asriel, what news of Medad?’

‘All is quiet between the Tigris and Euphrates. It would be better to recall his division, which has been much harassed. I thought of relieving him by Abidan.’

‘I think so, too. We may as well keep Abidan out of the city. If the truth were known, I’ll wager some of his company plundered the mosque. We must issue a proclamation on that subject. My good Jabaster, we’ll talk over these matters alone. At present I will leave you with your brother. Scherirah, sup with me tonight; before you quit Asriel, come with me to my cabinet.’