Part 9, Chapter 7

Part IX

Chapter 7

THE fortifications of the Serail resisted all the efforts of the rebels. Scherirah remained in his quarters, with his troops under arms, and recalled the small force that he had originally sent out as much to watch the course of events as to assist Abidan. Asriel and Ithamar poured down their columns in the rear of that chieftain, and by dawn a division of the guard had crossed the river, the care of which had been entrusted to Scherirah, and had thrown themselves into the palace. Alroy sallied forth at the head of these fresh troops. His presence decided a result which was perhaps never doubtful. The division of Abidan fought with the desperation that became their fortunes. The carnage was dreadful, but their discomfiture complete. They no longer acted in masses, or with any general system. They thought only of self-preservation, or of selling their lives at the dearest cost. Some dispersed, some escaped. Others entrenched themselves in houses, others fortified the bazaar. All the horrors of war in the streets were now experienced. The houses were in flames, the thoroughfares flowed with blood.

At the head of a band of faithful followers, Abidan proved himself, by his courage and resources, worthy of success. At length, he was alone, or surrounded only by his enemies. With his back against a building in a narrow street, where the number of his opponents only embarrassed them, the three foremost of his foes fell before his irresistible scimetar. The barricadoed door yielded to the pressure of the multitude. Abidan rushed up the narrow stairs, and, gaining a landing-place, turned suddenly round, and cleaved the skull of his nearest pursuer. He hurled the mighty body at his followers, and, retarding their advance, himself dashed onward, and gained the terrace of the mansion. Three soldiers of the guard followed him as he bounded from terrace to terrace. One, armed with a javelin, hurled it at the chieftain. The weapon slightly wounded Abidan, who, drawing it from his arm, sent it back to the heart of its owner. The two other soldiers, armed only with swords, gained upon him. He arrived at the last terrace in the cluster of buildings. He stood at bay on the brink of the precipice. He regained his breath. They approached him. He dodged them in their course. Suddenly, with admirable skill, he flung his scimetar edgewise at the legs of his farthest foe, who stopped short, roaring with pain. The chieftain sprang at the foremost, and hurled him down into the street below, where he was dashed to atoms. A trap-door offered itself to the despairing eye of the rebel. He descended and found himself in a room filled with women. They screamed, he rushed through them, and descending a staircase, entered a chamber tenanted by a bed-ridden old man. The ancient invalid inquired the cause of the uproar, and died of fright before he could receive an answer, at the sight of the awful being before him, covered with streaming blood. Abidan secured the door, washed his blood-stained face, and disguising himself in the dusty robes of the deceased Armenian, sallied forth to watch the fray. The obscure street was silent. The chieftain proceeded unmolested. At the corner he found a soldier holding a charger for his captain. Abidan, unarmed, seized a poniard from the soldier’s belt, stabbed him to the heart, and vaulting on the steed, galloped towards the river. No boat was to be found; he breasted the stream upon the stout courser. He reached the opposite bank. A company of camels were reposing by the side of a fountain. Alarm had dispersed their drivers. He mounted the fleetest in appearance; he dashed to the nearest gate of the city. The guard at the gate refused him a passage. He concealed his agitation. A marriage procession, returning from the country, arrived. He rushed into the centre of it, and overset the bride in her gilded waggon. In the midst of the confusion, the shrieks, the oaths, and the scuffle, he forced his way through the gate, scoured over the country, and never stopped until he had gained the desert.