THE PRINCE OF INDIA OR WHY CONSTANTINOPLE FELL
BY LEW. WALLACE
Rise, too, ye Shapes and Shadows of the Past Rise from your long forgotten grazes at last Let us behold your faces, let us hear The words you uttered in those days of fear Revisit your familiar haunts again The scenes of triumph and the scenes of pain And leave the footprints of your bleeding feet Once more upon the pavement of the street LONGFELLOW
BOOK I THE EARTH AND THE SEA ARE ALWAYS GIVING UP THEIR SECRETS
I. THE NAMELESS BAY II. THE MIDNIGHT LANDING III. THE HIDDEN TREASURE
BOOK II THE PRINCE OF INDIA
I. A MESSENGER FROM CIPANGO II. THE PILGRIM AT EL KATIF III. THE YELLOW AIR IV. EL ZARIBAH V. THE PASSING OF THE CARAVAN VI. THE PRINCE AND THE EMIR VII. AT THE KAABA VIII. THE ARRIVAL IN CONSTANTINOPLE IX. THE PRINCE AT HOME X. THE ROSE OF SPRING
BOOK III THE PRINCESS IRENE
I. MORNING ON THE BOSPHORUS II. THE PRINCESS IRENE III. THE HOMERIC PALACE IV. THE RUSSIAN MONK V. A VOICE FROM THE CLOISTER VI. WHAT DO THE STARS SAY? VII. THE PRINCE OF INDIA MEETS CONSTANTINE VIII. RACING WITH A STORM IX. IN THE WHITE CASTLE X. THE ARABIAN STORY-TELLER XI. THE TURQUOISE RING XII. THE RING RETURNS XIII. MAHOMMED HEARS FROM THE STARS XIV. DREAMS AND VISIONS XV. DEPARTURE FROM THE WHITE CASTLE XVI. AN EMBASSY TO THE PRINCESS IRENE XVII. THE EMPEROR'S WOOING XVIII. THE SINGING SHEIK XIX. TWO TURKISH TALES XX. MAHOMMED DREAMS
BOOK IV THE PALACE OF BLACHERNE
I. THE PALACE OF BLACHERNE II. THE AUDIENCE III. THE NEW FAITH PROCLAIMED IV. THE PANNYCHIDES V. A PLAGUE OF CRIME VI. A BYZANTINE GENTLEMAN OF THE PERIOD VII. A BYZANTINE HERETIC VIII. THE ACADEMY OF EPICURUS IX. A FISHERMAN'S FETE X. THE HAMARI
THE EARTH AND THE SEA ARE ALWAYS GIVING UP THEIR SECRETS THE PRINCE OF INDIA
THE NAMELESS BAY
In the noon of a September day in the year of our dear Lord 1395, a merchant vessel nodded sleepily upon the gentle swells of warm water flowing in upon the Syrian coast. A modern seafarer, looking from the deck of one of the Messagerie steamers now plying the same line of trade, would regard her curiously, thankful to the calm which held her while he slaked his wonder, yet more thankful that he was not of her passage.
She could not have exceeded a hundred tons burthen. At the bow and stern she was decked, and those quarters were fairly raised. Amidship she was low and open, and pierced for twenty oars, ten to a side, all swaying listlessly from the narrow ports in which they were hung. Sometimes they knocked against each other. One sail, square and of a dingy white, drooped from a broad yard-arm, which was itself tilted, and now and then creaked against the yellow mast complainingly, unmindful of the simple tackle designed to keep it in control. A watchman crouched in the meagre shade of a fan-like structure overhanging the bow deck. The roofing and the floor, where exposed, were clean, even bright; in all other parts subject to the weather and the wash there was only the blackness of pitch. The steersman sat on a bench at the stern. Occasionally, from force of habit, he rested a hand upon the rudder-oar to be sure it was yet in reach. With exception of the two, the lookout and the steersman, all on board, officers, oarsmen, and sailors, were asleep—such confidence could a Mediterranean calm inspire in those accustomed to life on the beautiful sea. As if Neptune never became angry there, and blowing his conch, and smiting with his trident, splashed the sky with the yeast of waves! However, in 1395 Neptune had disappeared; like the great god Pan, he was dead.
The next remarkable thing about the ship was the absence of the signs of business usual with merchantmen. There were no barrels, boxes, bales, or packages visible. Nothing indicated a cargo. In her deepest undulations the water-line was not once submerged. The leather shields of the oar-ports were high and dry. Possibly she had passengers aboard. Ah, yes! There under the awning, stretched halfway across the deck dominated by the steersman, was a group of persons all unlike seamen. Pausing to note them, we may find the motive of the voyage.
Four men composed the group. One was lying upon a pallet, asleep yet restless. A black velvet cap had slipped from his head, giving freedom to thick black hair tinged with white. Starting from the temples, a beard with scarce a suggestion of gray swept in dark waves upon the neck and throat, and even invaded the pillow. Between the hair and beard there was a narrow margin of sallow flesh for features somewhat crowded by knots of wrinkle. His body was wrapped in a loose woollen gown of brownish-black. A hand, apparently all bone, rested upon the breast, clutching a fold of the gown. The feet twitched nervously in the loosened thongs of old-fashioned sandals. Glancing at the others of the group, it was plain this sleeper was master and they his slaves. Two of them were stretched on the bare boards at the lower end of the pallet, and they were white. The third was a son of Ethiopia of unmixed blood and gigantic frame. He sat at the left of the couch, cross-legged, and, like the rest, was in a doze; now and then, however, he raised his head, and, without fully opening his eyes, shook a fan of peacock feathers from head to foot over the recumbent figure. The two whites were clad in gowns of coarse linen belted to their waists; while, saving a cincture around his loins, the negro was naked.
There is often much personal revelation to be gleaned from the properties a man carries with him from home. Applying the rule here, by the pallet there was a walking-stick of unusual length, and severely hand-worn a little above the middle. In emergency it might have been used as a weapon. Three bundles loosely wrapped had been cast against a timber of the ship; presumably they contained the plunder of the slaves reduced to the minimum allowance of travel. But the most noticeable item was a leather roll of very ancient appearance, held by a number of broad straps deeply stamped and secured by buckles of a metal blackened like neglected silver.
The attention of a close observer would have been attracted to this parcel, not so much by its antique showing, as by the grip with which its owner clung to it with his right hand. Even in sleep he held it of infinite consequence. It could not have contained coin or any bulky matter. Possibly the man was on some special commission, with his credentials in the old roll. Ay, who was he?
Thus started, the observer would have bent himself to study of the face; and immediately something would have suggested that while the stranger was of this period of the world he did not belong to it. Such were the magicians of the story-loving Al-Raschid. Or he was of the type Rabbinical that sat with Caiphas in judgment upon the gentle Nazarene. Only the centuries could have evolved the apparition. Who was he?
In the course of half an hour the man stirred, raised his head, looked hurriedly at his attendants, then at the parts of the ship in view, then at the steersman still dozing by the rudder; then he sat up, and brought the roll to his lap, whereat the rigor of his expression relaxed. The parcel was safe! And the conditions about him were as they should be!
He next set about undoing the buckles of his treasure. The long fingers were expert; but just when the roll was ready to open he lifted his face, and fixed his eyes upon the section of blue expanse outside the edge of the awning, and dropped into thought. And straightway it was settled that he was not a diplomatist or a statesman or a man of business of any kind. The reflection which occupied him had nothing to do with intrigues or statecraft; its centre was in his heart as the look proved. So, in tender moods, a father gazes upon his child, a husband at the beloved wife, restfully, lovingly.
And that moment the observer, continuing his study, would have forgotten the parcel, the white slaves, the gigantic negro, the self-willed hair and beard of pride—the face alone would have held him. The countenance of the Sphinx has no beauty now; and standing before it, we feel no stir of the admiration always a certificate that what we are beholding is charming out of the common lines; yet we are drawn to it irresistibly, and by a wish vague, foolish—so foolish we would hesitate long before putting it in words to be heard by our best lover—a wish that the monster would tell us all about itself. The feeling awakened by the face of the traveller would have been similar, for it was distinctly Israelitish, with exaggerated eyes set deeply in cavernous hollows—a mobile mask, in fact, concealing a life in some way unlike other lives. Unlike? That was the very attraction. If the man would only speak, what a tale he could unfold!
But he did not speak. Indeed, he seemed to have regarded speech a weakness to be fortified against. Putting the pleasant thought aside, he opened the roll, and with exceeding tenderness of touch brought forth a sheet of vellum dry to brittleness, and yellow as a faded sycamore leaf. There were lines upon it as of a geometrical drawing, and an inscription in strange characters. He bent over the chart, if such it may be called, eagerly, and read it through; then, with a satisfied expression, he folded it back into the cover, rebuckled the straps, and placed the parcel under the pillow. Evidently the business drawing him was proceeding as he would have had it. Next he woke the negro with a touch. The black in salute bent his body forward, and raised his hands palm out, the thumbs at the forehead. Attention singularly intense settled upon his countenance; he appeared to listen with his soul. It was time for speech, yet the master merely pointed to one of the sleepers. The watchful negro caught the idea, and going to the man, aroused him, then resumed his place and posture by the pallet. The action revealed his proportions. He looked as if he could have lifted the gates of Gaza, and borne them easily away; and to the strength there were superadded the grace, suppleness, and softness of motion of a cat. One could not have helped thinking the slave might have all the elements to make him a superior agent in fields of bad as well as good.
The second slave arose, and waited respectfully. It would have been difficult to determine his nationality. He had the lean face, the high nose, sallow complexion, and low stature of an Armenian. His countenance was pleasant and intelligent. In addressing him, the master made signs with hand and finger; and they appeared sufficient, for the servant walked away quickly as if on an errand. A short time, and he came back bringing a companion of the genus sailor, very red-faced, heavily built, stupid, his rolling gait unrelieved by a suggestion of good manners. Taking position before the black-gowned personage, his feet wide apart, the mariner said:
"You sent for me?"
The question was couched in Byzantine Greek.
"Yes," the passenger replied, in the same tongue, though with better accent. "Where are we?"
"But for this calm we should be at Sidon. The lookout reports the mountains in view."
The passenger reflected a moment, then asked, "Resorting to the oars, when can we reach the city?"
"Very well. Listen now."
The speaker's manner changed; fixing his big eyes upon the sailor's lesser orbs, he continued:
"A few stadia north of Sidon there is what may be called a bay. It is about four miles across. Two little rivers empty into it, one on each side. Near the middle of the bend of the shore there is a well of sweet water, with flow enough to support a few villagers and their camels. Do you know the bay?"
The skipper would have become familiar.
"You are well acquainted with this coast," he said.
"Do you know of such a bay?" the passenger repeated.
"I have heard of it."
"Could you find it at night?"
"I believe so."
"That is enough. Take me into the bay, and land me at midnight. I will not go to the city. Get out all the oars now. At the proper time I will tell you what further I wish. Remember I am to be set ashore at midnight at a place which I will show you."
The directions though few were clear. Having given them, the passenger signed the negro to fan him, and stretched himself upon the pallet; and thenceforth there was no longer a question who was in control. It became the more interesting, however, to know the object of the landing at midnight on the shore of a lonesome unnamed bay.
THE MIDNIGHT LANDING
The skipper predicted like a prophet. The ship was in the bay, and it was midnight or nearly so; for certain stars had climbed into certain quarters of the sky, and after their fashion were striking the hour.
The passenger was pleased.
"You have done well," he said to the mariner. "Be silent now, and get close in shore. There are no breakers. Have the small boat ready, and do not let the anchors go."
The calm still prevailed, and the swells of the sea were scarce perceptible. Under the gentlest impulse of the oars the little vessel drifted broadside on until the keel touched the sands. At the same instant the small boat appeared. The skipper reported to the passenger. Going to each of the slaves, the latter signed them to descend. The negro swung himself down like a monkey, and received the baggage, which, besides the bundles already mentioned, consisted of some tools, notably a pick, a shovel, and a stout crowbar. An empty water-skin was also sent down, followed by a basket suggestive of food. Then the passenger, with a foot over the side of the vessel, gave his final directions.
"You will run now," he said to the skipper, who, to his credit, had thus far asked no questions, "down to the city, and lie there to-morrow, and to-morrow night. Attract little notice as possible. It is not necessary to pass the gate. Put out in time to be here at sunrise. I will be waiting for you. Day after to-morrow at sunrise—remember."
"But if you should not be here?" asked the sailor, thinking of extreme probabilities.
"Then wait for me," was the answer.
The passenger, in turn, descended to the boat, and was caught in the arms of the black, and seated carefully as he had been a child. In brief time the party was ashore, and the boat returning to the ship; a little later, the ship withdrew to where the night effectually curtained the deep.
The stay on the shore was long enough to apportion the baggage amongst the slaves. The master then led the way. Crossing the road running from Sidon along the coast to the up-country, they came to the foothills of the mountain, all without habitation.
Later they came upon signs of ancient life in splendor—broken columns, and here and there Corinthian capitals in marble discolored and sunk deeply in sand and mould. The patches of white on them had a ghastly glimmer in the starlight. They were approaching the site of an old city, a suburb probably of Palae-Tyre when she was one of the spectacles of the world, sitting by the sea to rule it regally far and wide.
On further a small stream, one of those emptying into the bay, had ploughed a ravine for itself across the route the party was pursuing. Descending to the water, a halt was made to drink, and fill the water-skin, which the negro took on his shoulder.
On further there was another ancient site strewn with fragments indicative of a cemetery. Hewn stones were frequent, and mixed with them were occasional entablatures and vases from which the ages had not yet entirely worn the fine chiselling. At length an immense uncovered sarcophagus barred the way. The master stopped by it to study the heavens; when he found the north star, he gave the signal to his followers, and moved under the trail of the steadfast beacon.
They came to a rising ground more definitely marked by sarcophagi hewn from the solid rock, and covered by lids of such weight and solidity that a number of them had never been disturbed. Doubtless the dead within were lying as they had been left—but when, and by whom? What disclosures there will be when at last the end is trumpeted in!
On further, but still connected with the once magnificent funeral site, they encountered a wall many feet thick, and shortway beyond it, on the mountain's side, there were two arches of a bridge of which all else had been broken down; and these two had never spanned anything more substantial than the air. Strange structure for such a locality! Obviously the highway which once ran over it had begun in the city the better to communicate with the cemetery through which the party had just passed. So much was of easy understanding; but where was the other terminus? At sight of the arches the master drew a long breath of relief. They were the friends for whom he had been searching.
Nevertheless, without stopping, he led down into a hollow on all sides sheltered from view; and there the unloading took place. The tools and bundles were thrown down by a rock, and preparations made for the remainder of the night. The pallet was spread for the master. The basket gave up its contents, and the party refreshed themselves and slept the sleep of the weary.
The secluded bivouac was kept the next day. Only the master went forth in the afternoon. Climbing the mountain, he found the line in continuation of the bridge; a task the two arches serving as a base made comparatively easy. He stood then upon a bench or terrace cumbered with rocks, and so broad that few persons casually looking would have suspected it artificial. Facing fully about from the piers, he walked forward following the terrace which at places was out of line, and piled with debris tumbled from the mountain on the right hand side; in a few minutes that silent guide turned with an easy curve and disappeared in what had yet the appearance hardly distinguishable of an area wrenched with enormous labor from a low cliff of solid brown limestone.
The visitor scanned the place again and again; then he said aloud:
"No one has been here since"—
The sentence was left unfinished.
That he could thus identify the spot, and with such certainty pass upon it in relation to a former period, proved he had been there before.
Rocks, earth, and bushes filled the space. Picking footway through, he examined the face of the cliff then in front of him, lingering longest on the heap of breakage forming a bank over the meeting line of area and hill.
"Yes," he repeated, this time with undisguised satisfaction, "no one has been here since"—
Again the sentence was unfinished.
He ascended the bank next, and removed some of the stones at the top. A carved line in low relief on the face of the rock was directly exposed; seeing it he smiled, and replaced the stones, and descending, went back to the terrace, and thence to the slaves in bivouac.
From one of the packages he had two iron lamps of old Roman style brought out, and supplied with oil and wicks; then, as if everything necessary to his project was done, he took to the pallet. Some goats had come to the place in his absence, but no living creature else.
After nightfall the master woke the slaves, and made final preparation for the venture upon which he had come. The tools he gave to one man, the lamps to another, and the water-skin to the negro. Then he led out of the hollow, and up the mountain to the terrace visited in the afternoon; nor did he pause in the area mentioned as the abrupt terminus of the highway over the skeleton piers. He climbed the bank of stones covering the foot of the cliff up to the precise spot at which his reconnoissance had ended.
Directly the slaves were removing the bank at the top; not a difficult task since they had only to roll the loose stones down a convenient grade. They worked industriously. At length—in half an hour probably—an opening into the cliff was discovered. The cavity, small at first, rapidly enlarged, until it gave assurance of a doorway of immense proportions. When the enlargement sufficed for his admission, the master stayed the work, and passed in. The slaves followed. The interior descent offered a grade corresponding with that of the bank outside—another bank, in fact, of like composition, but more difficult to pass on account of the darkness.
With his foot the leading adventurer felt the way down to a floor; and when his assistants came to him, he took from a pocket in his gown a small case filled with a chemical powder which he poured at his feet; then he produced a flint and steel, and struck them together. Some sparks dropped upon the powder. Instantly a flame arose and filled the place with a ruddy illumination. Lighting the lamps by the flame, the party looked around them, the slaves with simple wonder.
They were in a vault—a burial vault of great antiquity. Either it was an imitation of like chambers in Egypt, or they were imitations of it. The excavation had been done with chisels. The walls were niched, giving them an appearance of panelling, and over each of the niches there had been an inscription in raised letters, now mostly defaced. The floor was a confusion of fragments knocked from sarcophagi, which, massive as they were, had been tilted, overturned, uncovered, mutilated, and robbed. Useless to inquire whose the vandalism. It may have been of Chaldeans of the time of Almanezor, or of the Greeks who marched with Alexander, or of Egyptians who were seldom regardful of the dead of the peoples they overthrew as they were of their own, or of Saracens, thrice conquerors along the Syrian coast, or of Christians. Few of the Crusaders were like St. Louis.
But of all this the master took no notice. With him it was right that the vault should look the wreck it was. Careless of inscriptions, indifferent to carving, his eyes ran rapidly along the foot of the northern wall until they came to a sarcophagus of green marble. Thither he proceeded. He laid his hand upon the half-turned lid, and observing that the back of the great box—if such it may be termed—was against the wall, he said again:
"No one has been here since"—
And again the sentence was left unfinished.
Forthwith he became all energy. The negro brought the crowbar, and, by direction, set it under the edge of the sarcophagus, which he held raised while the master blocked it at the bottom with a stone chip. Another bite, and a larger chip was inserted. Good hold being thus had, a vase was placed for fulcrum; after which, at every downward pressure of the iron, the ponderous coffin swung round a little to the left. Slowly and with labor the movement was continued until the space behind was uncovered.
By this time the lamps had become the dependencies for light. With his in hand, the master stooped and inspected the exposed wall. Involuntarily the slaves bent forward and looked, but saw nothing different from the general surface in that quarter. The master beckoned the negro, and touching a stone not wider than his three fingers, but reddish in hue, and looking like mere chinking lodged in an accidental crevice, signed him to strike it with the end of the bar. Once—twice—the stone refused to stir; with the third blow it was driven in out of sight, and, being followed vigorously, was heard to drop on the other side. The wall thereupon, to the height of the sarcophagus and the width of a broad door, broke, and appeared about to tumble down.
When the dust cleared away, there was a crevice unseen before, and wide enough to admit a hand. The reader must remember there were masons in the old time who amused themselves applying their mathematics to such puzzles. Here obviously the intention had been to screen an entrance to an adjoining chamber, and the key to the design had been the sliver of red granite first displaced.
A little patient use then of hand and bar enabled the workman to take out the first large block of the combination. That the master numbered with chalk, and had carefully set aside. A second block was taken out, numbered, and set aside; finally the screen was demolished, and the way stood open.
THE HIDDEN TREASURE
The slaves looked dubiously at the dusty aperture, which held out no invitation to them; the master, however, drew his robe closer about him, and stooping went in, lamp in hand. They then followed.
An ascending passage, low but of ample width, received them. It too had been chiselled from the solid rock. The wheel marks of the cars used in the work were still on the floor. The walls were bare but smoothly dressed. Altogether the interest here lay in expectation of what was to come; and possibly it was that which made the countenance of the master look so grave and absorbed. He certainly was not listening to the discordant echoes roused as he advanced.
The ascent was easy. Twenty-five or thirty steps brought them to the end of the passage.
They then entered a spacious chamber circular and domed. The light of the lamps was not enough to redeem the ceiling from obscurity; yet the master led without pause to a sarcophagus standing under the centre of the dome, and when he was come there everything else was forgotten by him.
The receptacle of the dead thus discovered had been hewn from the rock, and was of unusual proportions. Standing broadside to the entrance, it was the height of an ordinary man, and twice as long as high. The exterior had been polished smoothly as the material would allow; otherwise it was of absolute plainness, looking not unlike a dark brown box. The lid was a slab of the finest white marble carven into a perfect model of Solomon's Temple. While the master surveyed the lid he was visibly affected. He passed the lamp over it slowly, letting the light fall into the courts of the famous building; in like manner he illuminated the corridors, and the tabernacle; and, as he did so, his features trembled and his eyes were suffused. He walked around the exquisite representation several times, pausing now and then to blow away the dust that had in places accumulated upon it. He noticed the effect of the transparent whiteness in the chamber; so in its day the original had lit up the surrounding world. Undoubtedly the model had peculiar hold upon his feelings.
But shaking the weakness off he after a while addressed himself to work. He had the negro thrust the edge of the bar under the lid, and raise it gently. Having thoughtfully provided himself in the antechamber with pieces of stone for the purpose, he placed one of them so as to hold the vantage gained. Slowly, then, by working at the ends alternately, the immense slab was turned upon its centre; slowly the hollow of the coffin was flooded with light; slowly, and with seeming reluctance, it gave up its secrets.
In strong contrast to the plainness of the exterior, the interior of the sarcophagus was lined with plates and panels of gold, on which there were cartoons chased and beaten in, representing ships, and tall trees, doubtless cedars of Lebanon, and masons at work, and two men armed and in royal robes greeting each other with clasped hands; and so beautiful were the cartoons that the eccentric medalleur, Cellini, would have studied them long, if not enviously. Yet he who now peered into the receptacle scarcely glanced at them.
On a stone chair seated was the mummy of a man with a crown upon its head, and over its body, for the most part covering—the linen wrappings, was a robe of threads of gold in ample arrangement. The hands rested on the lap; in one was a sceptre; the other held an inscribed silver tablet. There were rings plain, and rings with jewels in setting, circling the fingers and thumbs; the ears, ankles, even the great toes, were ornamented in like manner. At the feet a sword of the fashion of a cimeter had been laid. The blade was in its scabbard, but the scabbard was a mass of jewels, and the handle a flaming ruby. The belt was webbed with pearls and glistening brilliants. Under the sword were the instruments sacred then and ever since to Master Masons—a square, a gavel, a plummet, and an inscribing compass.
The man had been a king—so much the first glance proclaimed. With him, as with his royal brethren from the tombs along the Nile, death had asserted itself triumphantly over the embalmer. The cheeks were shrivelled and mouldy; across the forehead the skin was drawn tight; the temples were hollows rimmed abruptly with the frontal bones; the eyes, pits partially filled with dried ointments of a bituminous color. The monarch had yielded his life in its full ripeness, for the white hair and beard still adhered in stiffened plaits to the skull, cheeks, and chin. The nose alone was natural; it stood up thin and hooked, like the beak of an eagle.
At sight of the figure thus caparisoned and maintaining its seat in an attitude of calm composure the slaves drew back startled. The negro dropped his iron bar, making the chamber ring with a dissonant clangor.
Around the mummy in careful arrangement were vessels heaped with coins and pearls and precious stones, cut and ready for the goldsmith. Indeed, the whole inner space of the sarcophagus was set with basins and urns, each in itself a work of high art; and if their contents were to be judged by what appeared overflowing them, they all held precious stones of every variety. The corners had been draped with cloths of gold and cloths embroidered with pearls, some of which were now falling to pieces of their own weight.
We know that kings and queens are but men and women subject to the same passions of common people; that they are generous or sordid according to their natures; that there have been misers amongst them; but this one—did he imagine he could carry his amassments with him out of the world? Had he so loved the gems in his life as to dream he could illumine his tomb with them? If so, O royal idiot!
The master, when an opening had been made sufficiently wide by turning the lid upon the edge of the sarcophagus, took off his sandals, gave a foot to one of his slaves, and swung himself into the interior. The lamp was then given him, and he surveyed the wealth and splendor as the king might never again. And as the king in his day had said with exultation, Lo! it is all mine, the intruder now asserted title.
Unable, had he so wished, to carry the whole collection off, he looked around upon this and upon that, determining where to begin. Conscious he had nothing to fear, and least of all from the owner in the chair, he was slow and deliberate. From his robe he drew a number of bags of coarse hempen cloth, and a broad white napkin. The latter he spread upon the floor, first removing several of the urns to obtain space; then he emptied one of the vessels upon it, and from the sparkling and varicolored heap before him proceeded to make selection.
His judgment was excellent, sure and swift. Not seldom he put the large stones aside, giving preference to color and lustre. Those chosen he dropped into a bag. When the lot was gone through, he returned the rejected to the vessel, placing it back exactly in its place. Then he betook himself to another of the vessels, and then another, until, in course of a couple of hours, he had made choice from the collection, and filled nine bags, and tied them securely.
Greatly relieved, he arose, rubbed the benumbed joints of his limbs awhile, then passed the packages out to the slaves. The occupation had been wearisome and tensive; but it was finished, and he would now retire. He lingered to give a last look at the interior, muttering the sentence again, and leaving it unfinished as before:
"No one has been here since"—
From the face of the king, his eyes fell to the silver tablet in the nerveless hand. Moving close, and holding the lamp in convenient position, he knelt and read the inscription.
"There is but one God, and He was from the beginning, and will be without end.
"In my lifetime, I prepared this vault and tomb to receive my body, and keep it safely; yet it may be visited, for the earth and sea are always giving up their secrets.
"Therefore, O Stranger, first to find me, know thou!
"That in all my days I kept intercourse with Solomon, King of the Jews, wisest of men, and the richest and greatest. As is known, he set about building a house to his Lord God, resolved that there should be nothing like it in the world, nothing so spacious, so enriched, so perfect in proportions, so in all things becoming the glory of his God. In sympathy with him I gave him of the skill of my people, workers in brass, and silver, and gold, and products of the quarries: and in their ships my sailors brought him the yield of mines from the ends of the earth. At last the house was finished; then he sent me the model of the house, and the coins, and cloths of gold and pearl, and the precious stones, and the vessels holding them, and the other things of value here. Ad if, O Stranger, thou dost wonder at the greatness of the gift, know thou that it was but a small part of what remained unto him of like kind, for he was master of the earth, and of everything belonging to it which might be of service to him, even the elements and their subtleties.
"Nor think, O Stranger, that I have taken the wealth into the tomb with me, imagining it can serve me in the next life. I store it here because I love him who gave it to me, and am jealous of his love; and that is all.
"So thou wilt use the wealth in ways pleasing in the sight of the Lord God of Solomon, my royal friend, take thou of it in welcome. There is no God but his God!
"Thus say I—HIRAM, KING OF TYRE."
"Rest thou thy soul, O wisest of pagan kings," said the master, rising. "Being the first to find thee here, and basing my title to thy wealth on that circumstance, I will use it in a way pleasing in the sight of the Lord God of Solomon. Verily, verily, there is no God but his God!"
This, then, was the business that brought the man to the tomb of the king whose glory was to have been the friend of Solomon. Pondering the idea, we begin to realize how vast the latter's fame was; and it ceases to be matter of wonder that his contemporaries, even the most royal, could have been jealous of his love.
Not only have we the man's business, but it is finished; and judging from the satisfaction discernible on his face as he raised the lamp and turned to depart, the result must have been according to his best hope. He took off his robe, and tossed it to his slaves; then he laid a hand upon the edge of the sarcophagus preparatory to climbing out. At the moment, while giving a last look about him, an emerald, smoothly cut, and of great size, larger indeed than a full-grown pomegranate, caught his eyes in its place loose upon the floor. He turned back, and taking it up, examined it carefully; while thus engaged his glance dropped to the sword almost at his feet. The sparkle of the brilliants, and the fire-flame of the great ruby in the grip, drew him irresistibly, and he stood considering.
Directly he spoke in a low voice:
"No one has been here since"—
He hesitated—glanced hurriedly around to again assure himself it was not possible to be overheard—then finished the sentence:
"No one has been here since I came a thousand years ago."
At the words so strange, so inexplicable upon any theory of nature and common experience, the lamp shook in his hand. Involuntarily he shrank from the admission, though to himself. But recovering, he repeated:
"Since I came a thousand years ago."
Then he added more firmly:
"But the earth and the sea are always giving up their secrets. So saith the good King Hiram; and since I am a witness proving the wisdom of the speech, I at least must believe him. Wherefore it is for me to govern myself as if another will shortly follow me. The saying of the king is an injunction."
With that, he turned the glittering sword over and over admiringly. Loath to let it go, he drew the blade partly from the scabbard, and its clearness had the depth peculiar to the sky between stars at night.
"Is there anything it will not buy," he continued, reflectively. "What king could refuse a sword once Solomon's? I will take it."
Thereupon he passed both the emerald and the sword out to the slaves, whom he presently joined.
The conviction, but a moment before expressed, that another would follow him to the tomb of the venerated Tyrian, was not strong enough to hinder the master from attempting to hide every sign which might aid in the discovery. The negro, under his direction, returned the lid exactly to its former fitting place on the sarcophagus; the emerald and the sword he wrapped in his gown; the bags and the tools were counted and distributed among the slaves for easy carriage. Lamp in hand, he then walked around to see that nothing was left behind. Incidentally he even surveyed the brown walls and the dim dome overhead. Having reached the certainty that everything was in its former state, he waved his hand, and with one long look backward at the model, ghostly beautiful in its shining white transparency, he led the way to the passage of entrance, leaving the king to his solitude and stately sleep, unmindful of the visitation and the despoilment.
Out in the large reception room, he paused again to restore the wall. Beginning with the insignificant key, one by one the stones, each of which, as we have seen, had been numbered by him, were raised and reset. Then handfuls of dust were collected and blown into the slight crevices till they were invisible. The final step was the restoration of the sarcophagus; this done, the gallery leading to the real vault of the king was once more effectually concealed.
"He who follows, come he soon or late, must have more than sharp eyes if he would have audience with Hiram, my royal friend of Tyre," the adventurer said, in his meditative way, feeling at the same time in the folds of his gown for the chart so the object of solicitude on the ship. The roll, the emerald, and the sword were also safe. Signing the slaves to remain where they were, he moved slowly across the chamber, and by aid of his lamp surveyed an aperture there so broad and lofty it was suggestive of a gate rather than a door.
"It is well," he said, smiling. "The hunter of spoils, hereafter as heretofore, will pass this way instead of the other."
The remark was shrewd. Probably nothing had so contributed to the long concealment of the gallery just reclosed the second time in a thousand years as the high doorway, with its invitation to rooms beyond it, all now in iconoclastic confusion.
Rejoining his workmen, he took a knife from the girdle of one of them, and cut a slit in the gurglet large enough to admit the bags of precious stones. The skin was roomy, and received them, though with the loss of much of the water. Having thus disposed of that portion of the plunder to the best advantage both for portage and concealment, he helped swing it securely upon the negro's shoulder, and without other delay led from the chamber to the great outdoors, where the lamps were extinguished.
The pure sweet air, as may be imagined, was welcome to every one. While the slaves stood breathing it in wholesome volumes, the master studied the stars, and saw the night was not so far gone but that, with industry, the sea-shore could be made in time for the ship.
Still pursuing the policy of hiding the road to the tomb much as possible, he waited while the men covered the entrance as before with stones brought up from the bank. A last survey of the face of the rock, minute as the starlight allowed, reassured him that, as to the rest of the world, the treasure might remain with its ancient owner undisturbed for yet another thousand years, if not forever; after which, in a congratulatory mood, he descended the mountain side to the place of bivouac, and thence in good time, and without adventure, arrived at the landing by the sea. There the negro, wading far out, flung the tools into the water.
In the appointed time the galley came down from the city, and, under impulsion of the oars, disappeared with the party up the coast northward.
The negro unrolled the pallet upon the deck, and brought some bread, Smyrna figs, and wine of Prinkipo, and the four ate and drank heartily.
The skipper was then summoned.
"You have done well, my friend," said the master. "Spare not sail or oar now, but make Byzantium without looking into any wayside port. I will increase your pay in proportion as you shorten the time we are out. Look to it—go—and speed you."
Afterward the slaves in turn kept watch while he slept. And though the coming and going of sailors was frequent, not one of them noticed the oil-stained water-skin cast carelessly near the master's pillow, or the negro's shaggy half-cloak, serving as a wrap for the roll, the emerald, and the sword once Solomon's.
The run of the galley from the nameless bay near Sidon was without stop or so much as a headwind. Always the blue sky above the deck, and the blue sea below. In daytime the master passenger would occasionally pause in his walk along the white planks, and, his hand on the gunwale, give a look at some of the landmarks studding the ancient Cycladean Sea, an island here, or a tall promontory of the continent yonder, possibly an Olympian height faintly gray in the vaster distance. His manner at such moments did not indicate a traveller new to the highway. A glance at the points such as business men closely pressed give the hands on the face of a clock to determine the minute of the hour, and he would resume walking. At night he slept right soundly.
From the Dardanelles into the Hellespont; then the Marmora. The captain would have coasted, but the passenger bade him keep in the open. "There is nothing to fear from the weather," he said, "but there is time to be saved."
In an afternoon they sighted the great stones Oxia and Plati; the first, arid and bare as a gray egg, and conical like an irregular pyramid; the other, a plane on top, with verdure and scattering trees. A glance at the map shows them the most westerly group of the Isles of the Princes.
Now Nature is sometimes stupid, sometimes whimsical, doing unaccountable things. One gazing at the other isles of the group from a softly rocking caique out a little way on the sea divines instantly that she meant them for summer retreats, but these two, Oxia and Plati, off by themselves, bleak in winter, apparently always ready for spontaneous combustion in the heated months, for what were they designed? No matter—uses were found for them—fitting uses. Eremites in search of the hardest, grimmest places, selected Oxia, and pecking holes and caves in its sides, shared the abodes thus laboriously won with cormorants, the most gluttonous of birds. In time a rude convent was built near the summit. On the other hand, Plati was converted into a Gehenna for criminals, and in the vats and dungeons with which it was provided, lives were spent weeping for liberty. On this isle, tears and curses; on that, tears and prayers.
At sundown the galley was plying its oars between Oxia and the European shore about where St. Stephano is now situated. The dome of Sta. Sophia was in sight; behind it, in a line to the northwest, arose the tower of Galata. "Home by lamplighting—Blessed be the Virgin!" the mariners said to each other piously. But no! The master passenger sent for the captain.
"I do not care to get into harbor before morning. The night is delicious, and I will try it in the small boat. I was once a rower, and yet have a fancy for the oars. Do thou lay off and on hereabouts. Put two lamps at the masthead that I may know thy vessel when I desire to return. Now get out the boat."
The captain thought his voyager queer of taste; nevertheless he did as told. In a short time the skiff—if the familiar word can be pardoned— put off with the negro and his master, the latter at the oars.
In preparation for the excursion the gurglet half full of water and the sheepskin mantle of the black man were lowered into the little vessel. The boat moved away in the direction of Prinkipo, the mother isle of the group; and as the night deepened, it passed from view.
When out of sight from the galley's deck, the master gave the rowing to the negro, and taking seat by the rudder, changed direction to the southeast; after which he kept on and on, until Plati lay directly in his course.
The southern extremity of Plati makes quite a bold bluff. In a period long gone a stone tower had been constructed there, a lookout and shelter for guardsmen on duty; and there being no earthly chance of escape for prisoners, so securely were they immured, the duty must have been against robbers from the mainland on the east, and from pirates generally. Under the tower there was a climb difficult for most persons in daylight, and from the manoeuvring of the boat, the climb was obviously the object drawing the master. He at length found it, and stepped out on a shelving stone. The gurglet and mantle were passed to him, and soon he and his follower were feeling their way upward.
On the summit, the chief walked once around the tower, now the merest ruin, a tumbledown without form, in places overgrown with sickly vines. Rejoining his attendant, and staying a moment to thoroughly empty the gurglet of water, on his hands and knees he crawled into a passage much obstructed by debris. The negro waited outside.
The master made two trips; the first one, he took the gurglet in; the second, he took the mantle wrapping the sword. At the end, he rubbed his hands in self-congratulation.
"They are safe—the precious stones of Hiram, and the sword of Solomon! Three other stores have I like this one—in India, in Egypt, in Jerusalem—and there is the tomb by Sidon. Oh, I shall not come to want!" and he laughed well pleased.
The descent to the small boat was effected without accident.
Next morning toward sunrise the passengers disembarked at Port St. Peter on the south side of the Golden Horn. A little later the master was resting at home in Byzantium.
Within three days the mysterious person whom we, wanting his proper name and title, have termed the master, had sold his house and household effects. In the night of the seventh day, with his servants, singular in that all of them were deaf and dumb, he went aboard ship, and vanished down the Marmora, going no one but himself knew whither.
The visit to the tomb of the royal friend of Solomon had evidently been to provide for the journey; and that he took precious stones in preference to gold and silver signified a journey indefinite as to time and place.
THE PRINCE OF INDIA
A MESSENGER FROM CIPANGO
Just fifty-three years after the journey to the tomb of the Syrian king—more particularly on the fifteenth day of May, fourteen hundred and forty-eight—a man entered one of the stalls of a market in Constantinople—to-day the market would be called a bazaar—and presented a letter to the proprietor.
The Israelite thus honored delayed opening the linen envelope while he surveyed the messenger. The liberty, it must be remarked, was not a usual preliminary in the great city, the cosmopolitanism of which had been long established; that is to say, a face, a figure, or a mode, to gain a second look from one of its denizens, had then, as it has now, to be grossly outlandish. In this instance the owner of the stall indulged a positive stare. He had seen, he thought, representatives of all known nationalities, but never one like the present visitor—never one so pinkish in complexion, and so very bias-eyed—never one who wrapped and re-wrapped himself in a single shawl so entirely, making it answer all the other vestments habitual to men. The latter peculiarity was more conspicuous in consequence of a sack of brown silk hanging loosely from the shoulder, with leaves and flowers done in dazzling embroidery down the front and around the edges. And then the slippers were of silk not less rich with embroidery, while over the bare head a sunshade of bamboo and paper brilliantly painted was carried.
Too well bred to persist in the stare or attempt to satisfy his curiosity by a direct question, the proprietor opened the letter, and began reading it. His neighbors less considerate ran together, and formed a crowd around the stranger, who nevertheless bore the inspection composedly, apparently unconscious of anything to make him such a cynosure.
The paper which the removal of the envelope gave to the stall-keeper's hand excited him the more. The delicacy of its texture, its softness to the touch, its semi-transparency, were unlike anything he had ever seen; it was not only foreign, but very foreign.
The lettering, however, was in Greek plainly done. He noticed first the date; then, his curiosity becoming uncontrollable, and the missive being of but one sheet, his eyes dropped to the place of signature. There was no name there—only a seal—an impression on a surface of yellow wax of the drooping figure of a man bound to a cross.
At sight of the seal his eyes opened wider. He drew a long breath to quiet a rising feeling, half astonishment, half awe. Retreating to a bench near by, he seated himself, and presently became unmindful of the messenger, of the crowd, of everything, indeed, except the letter and the matters of which it treated.
The demand of the reader for a sight of the paper which could produce such an effect upon a person who was not more than an ordinary dealer in an Eastern market may by this time have become imperious; wherefore it is at once submitted in free translation. Only the date is modernized.
"ISLAND IN THE OVER-SEA. FAR EAST. May 15, A.D. 1447.
"Uel, Son of Jahdai.
"Peace to thee and all thine!
"If thou hast kept faithfully the heirlooms of thy progenitors, somewhere in thy house there is now a duplication of the seal which thou wilt find hereto attached; only that one is done in gold. The reference is to prove to thee a matter I am pleased to assert, knowing it will at least put thee upon inquiry—I knew thy father, thy grandfather, and his father, and others of thy family further back than it is wise for me to declare; and I loved them, for they were a virtuous and goodly race, studious to do the will of the Lord God of Israel, and acknowledging no other; therein manifesting the chiefest of human excellences. To which, as more directly personal to thyself, I will add that qualities of men, like qualities in plants, are transmissible, and go they unmixed through many generations, they make a kind. Therefore, at this great distance, and though I have never looked into thy face, or touched thy hand, or heard thy voice, I know thee, and give thee trust confidently. The son of thy father cannot tell the world what he has of me here, or that there is a creature like unto me living, or that he has to do with me in the least; and as the father would gladly undertake my requests, even those I now reveal unto thee, not less willingly will his son undertake them. Refusal would be the first step toward betrayal.
"With this preface, O Son of Jahdai, I write without fear, and freely; imparting, first, that it is now fifty years since I set foot upon the shores of this Island, which, for want of a name likely to be known to thee, I have located and described as 'In the Over-Sea. Far East.' Its people are by nature kindly disposed to strangers, and live simply and affectionately. Though they never heard of the Nazarene whom the world persists in calling the Christ, it is truth to say they better illustrate his teachings, especially in their dealings with each other, than the so-called Christians amongst whom thy lot is cast. Withal, however, I have become weary, the fault being more in myself than in them. Desire for change is the universal law. Only God is the same yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow eternally. So I am resolved to seek once more the land of our fathers and Jerusalem, for which I yet have tears. In her perfection, she was more than beautiful; in her ruin, she is more than sacred.
"In the execution of my design, know thou next, O Son of Jahdai, that I despatch my servant, Syama, intrusting him to deliver this letter. When it is put into thy hand, note the day, and see if it be not exactly one year from this 15 May, the time I have given him to make the journey, which is more by sea than land. Thou mayst then know I am following him, though with stoppages of uncertain duration; it being necessary for me to cross from India to Mecca; thence to Kash-Cush, and down the Nile to Cairo. Nevertheless I hope to greet thee in person within six months after Syama hath given thee this report.
"The sending a courier thus in advance is with a design of which I think it of next importance to inform thee.
"It is my purpose to resume residence in Constantinople; for that, I must have a house. Syama, amongst other duties in my behalf, is charged to purchase and furnish one, and have it ready to receive me when I arrive. The day is long passed since a Khan had attractions for me. Much more agreeable is it to think my own door will open instantly at my knock. In this affair thou canst be of service which shall be both remembered and gratefully recompensed. He hath no experience in the matter of property in thy city; thou hast; it is but natural, therefore, if I pray thou bring it into practice by assisting him in the selection, in perfecting the title, and in all else the project may require doing; remembering only that the tenement be plain and comfortable, not rich; for, alas! the time is not yet when the children of Israel may live conspicuously in the eye of the Christian world.
"Thou wilt find Syama shrewd and of good judgment, older than he seemeth, and quick to render loyalty for my sake. Be advised also that he is deaf and dumb; yet, if in speaking thou turn thy face to him, and use the Greek tongue, he will understand thee by the motion of thy lips, and make answer by signs.
"Finally, be not afraid to accept this commission on account of pecuniary involvement. Syama hath means of procuring all the money he may require, even to extravagance; at the same time he is forbidden to contract a debt, except it be to thee for kindness done, all which he will report to me so I may pay them fitly.
"In all essential things Syama hath full instructions; besides, he is acquainted with my habits and tastes; wherefore I conclude this writing by saying I hope thou wilt render him aid as indicated, and that when I come thou wilt allow me to relate myself to thee as father to son, in all things a help, in nothing a burden.
"Again, O Son of Jahdai, to thee and thine—Peace!"
The son of Jahdai, at the conclusion of the reading, let his hands fall heavily in his lap, while he plunged into a study which the messenger with his foreign airs could not distract.
Very great distance is one of the sublimities most powerful over the imagination. The letter had come from an Island he had never heard named. An Island in the Over-Sea which doubtless washed the Eastern end of the earth, wherever that might be. And the writer! How did he get there? And what impelled him to go?
A chill shot the thinker's nerves. He suddenly remembered that in his house there was a cupboard in a wall, with two shelves devoted to storage of heirlooms; on the upper shelf lay the torah of immemorial usage in his family; the second contained cups of horn and metal, old phylacteries, amulets, and things of vertu in general, and of such addition and multiplication through the ages that he himself could not have made a list of them; in fact, now his attention was aroused, he recalled them a mass of colorless and formless objects which had ceased to have history or value. Amongst them, however, a seal in the form of a medallion in gold recurred to him; but whether the impression upon it was raised or sunken he could not have certainly said; nor could he have told what the device was. His father and grandfather had esteemed it highly, and the story they told him about it divers times when he was a child upon their knees he could repeat quite substantially.
A man committed an indignity to Jesus the pretended Christ, who, in punishment, condemned him to linger on the earth until in the fulness of time he should come again; and the man had gone on living through the centuries. Both the father and grandfather affirmed the tale to be true; they had known the unfortunate personally; yet more, they declared he had been an intimate of the family, and had done its members through generations friendlinesses without number; in consequence they had come to consider him one of them in love. They had also said that to their knowledge it was his custom to pray for death regularly as the days came and went. He had repeatedly put himself in its way; yet curiously it passed him by, until he at last reached a conviction he could not die.
Many years had gone since the stall-keeper last heard the tale, and still more might have been counted since the man disappeared, going no one knew whither.
But he was not dead! He was coming again! It was too strange to believe! It could not be! Yet one thing was clear—whatever the messenger might be, or presuming him a villain, whatever the lie he thought to make profitable, appeal could be safely and cheaply made to the seal in the cupboard. As a witness it, too, was deaf and dumb; on its face nevertheless there was revelation and the truth.
Through the momentary numbness of his faculties so much the son of Jahdai saw, and he did not wait. Signing the messenger to follow, he passed into a closet forming part of the stall, and the two being alone, he spoke in Greek.
"Be thou seated here," he said, "and wait till I return."
The messenger smiled and bowed, and took seat; thereupon Uel drew his turban down to his ears, and, letter in hand, started home.
His going was rapid; sometimes he almost ran. Acquaintances met him on the street, but he did not see them; if they spoke to him, he did not hear. Arrived at his own door, he plunged into the house as if a mob were at his heels. Now he was before the cupboard! Little mercy the phylacteries and amulets, the bridle-spanglery of donkeys, the trinketry of women, his ancestresses once famous for beauty or many children— little mercy the motley collection on the second shelf received from his hands. He tossed them here and there, and here and there again, but the search was vain. Ah, good Lord! was the medalet lost? And of all times, then?
The failure made him the more anxious; his hands shook while he essayed the search once more; and he reproached himself. The medal was valuable for its gold, and besides it was a sacred souvenir. Conscience stung him. Over and over he shifted and turned the various properties on the shelf, the last time systematically and with fixed attention. When he stopped to rest, the perspiration stood on his forehead in large drops, and he fairly wrung his hands, crying, "It is not here—it is lost! My God, how shall I know the truth now!"
At this pause it is to be said that the son of Jahdai was wifeless. The young woman whom he had taken as helpmeet in dying had left him a girl baby who, at the time of our writing, was about thirteen years old. Under the necessity thus imposed, he found a venerable daughter of Jerusalem to serve him as housekeeper, and charge herself with care of the child. Now he thought of that person; possibly she knew where the seal was. He turned to seek her, and as he did so, the door of an adjoining room opened, and the child appeared.
He held her very dear, because she had the clear olive complexion of her mother, and the same soft black eyes with which the latter used to smile upon him in such manner that words were never required to assure him of her love. And the little one was bright and affectionate, and had prettinesses in speech, and sang low and contentedly the day long. Often as he took her on his lap and studied her fondly, he was conscious she promised to be gentle and beautiful as the departed one; beyond which it never occurred to him there could be superior excellences.
Distressed as the poor man was, he took the child in his arms, and kissed her on the round cheek, and was putting her down when he saw the medal at her throat, hanging from a string. She told him the housekeeper had given it to her as a plaything. Untied at last—for his impatience was nigh uncontrollable—he hurried with the recovered treasure to a window, to look at the device raised upon it; then, his heart beating rapidly, he made comparison with the impression sunk in the yellow wax at the foot of the letter; he put them side by side—there could be no mistake—the impression on the wax might have been made by the medallion!
Let it not be supposed now that the son of Jahdai did not appreciate the circumstance which had befallen. The idea of a man suffering a doom so strange affected him, while the doom itself, considered as a judgment, was simply awful; but his thought did not stop there—it carried him behind both the man and the doom. Who was He with power by a word, not merely to change the most fixed of the decrees of nature, but, by suspending it entirely, hold an offending wretch alive for a period already encroaching upon the eternal? One less firmly rooted in the faith of his fathers would have stood aghast at the conclusion to which the answer as an argument led—a conclusion admitting no escape once it was reached. The affair in hand, however, despite its speculative side, was real and urgent; and the keeper of the stall, remembering the messenger in half imprisonment, fell to thinking of the practical questions before him; first of which was the treatment he should accord his correspondent's requests.
This did not occupy him long. His father, he reflected, would have received the stranger cordially, and as became one of such close intimacy; so should he. The requests were easy, and carried no pecuniary liability with them; he was merely to aid an inexperienced servant in the purchase of a dwelling-house, the servant having plenty of funds. True, when the master presented himself in person, it would be necessary to determine exactly the footing to be accorded him; but for the present that might be deferred. If, in the connection, the son of Jahdai dwelt briefly upon possible advantages to himself, the person being presumably rich and powerful, it was human, and he is to be excused for it.
The return to the market was less hurried than the going from it. There Uel acted promptly. He took Syama to his house, and put him into the guest-chamber, assuring him it was a pleasure. Yet when night came he slept poorly. The incidents of the day were mixed with much that was unaccountable, breaking the even tenor of his tradesman's life by unwonted perplexities. He had not the will to control his thoughts; they would go back to the excitement of the moment when he believed the medallion lost; and as points run together in the half-awake state on very slender threads, he had a vision of a mysterious old man coming into his house, and in some way taking up and absorbing the life of his child. When the world at last fell away and left him asleep, it was with a dread tapping heavily at his heart.
The purchase which Uel was requested to assist in making proved a light affair. After diligent search through the city, Syama decided to take a two-story house situated in a street running along the foot of the hill to-day crowned by the mosque Sultan Selim, although it was then the site of an unpretentious Christian church. Besides a direct eastern frontage, it was in the divisional margin between the quarters of the Greeks, which were always clean, and those of the Jews, which were always filthy. It was also observed that neither the hill nor the church obstructed the western view from the roof; that is to say, it was so far around the upper curve of the hill that a thistle-down would be carried by a south-east wind over many of the proudest Greek residences and dropped by the Church of the Holy Virgin on Blacherne, or in the imperial garden behind the Church. In addition to these advantages, the son of Jahdai was not unmindful that his own dwelling, a small but comfortable structure also of wood, was just opposite across the street. Everything considered, the probabilities were that Syama's selection would prove satisfactory to his master. The furnishment was a secondary matter.
It is to be added that in course of the business there were two things from which Uel extracted great pleasure; Syama always had money to pay promptly for everything he bought; in the next place, communication with him was astonishingly easy. His eyes made up for the deficiency in hearing; while his signs, gestures, and looks were the perfection of pantomime. Of evenings the child never tired watching him in conversation.
While we go now to bring the Wanderer up, it should not be forgotten that the house, completely furnished, is awaiting him, and he has only to knock at the door, enter, and be at home.
THE PILGRIM AT EL KATIF
The bay of Bahrein indents the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Hard by the point on the north at which it begins its inland bend rise the whitewashed, one-story mud-houses of the town El Katif. Belonging to the Arabs, the most unchangeable of peoples, both the town and the bay were known in the period of our story by their present names.
The old town in the old time derived importance chiefly from the road which, leading thence westwardly through Hejr Yemameh, brought up, after many devious stretches across waterless wastes of sand, at El Derayeh, a tented capital of the Bedouins, and there forked, one branch going to Medina, the other to Mecca. In other words, El Katif was to Mecca on the east the gate Jeddo was to it on the west.
When, in annual recurrence, the time for the indispensable Hajj, or Pilgrimage, came, the name of the town was on the lips of men and women beyond the Green Sea, and southwardly along the coast of Oman, and in the villages and dowars back of the coast under the peaks of Akdar, only a little less often than those of the holy cities. Then about the first of July the same peoples as pilgrims from Irak, Afghanistan, India, and beyond those countries even, there being an East and a Far East, and pilgrims from Arabia, crowded together, noisy, quarrelsome, squalid, accordant in but one thing—a determination to make the Hajj lest they might die as Jews or Christians.
The law required the pilgrim to be at Mecca in the month of Ramazan, the time the Prophet himself had become a pilgrim. From El Katif the direct journey might be made in sixty days, allowing an average march of twelve miles. By way of Medina, it could be made to permit the votary to be present and participate in the observances usual on the day of the Mysterious Night of Destiny.
The journey moreover was attended with dangers. Winds, drouth, sand storms beset the way; and there were beasts always hungry, and robbers always watchful. The sun beat upon the hills, curtained the levels with mirage, and in the fiumuras kindled invisible fires; so in what the unacclimated breathed and in what they drank of the waters of the land there were diseases and death.
The Prophet having fixed the month of Ramazan for the Hajj, pilgrims accustomed themselves to assemblage at Constantinople, Damascus, Cairo and Bagdad. If they could not avoid the trials of the road, they could lessen them. Borrowing the term caravan as descriptive of the march, they established markets at all convenient places.
This is the accounting for one of the notable features of El Katif from the incoming of June till the caravan extended itself on the road, and finally disappeared in the yellow farness of the Desert. One could not go amiss for purveyors in general. Dealers in horses, donkeys, camels, and dromedaries abounded. The country for miles around appeared like a great stock farm. Herds overran the lean earth. Makers of harness, saddles, box-houdahs, and swinging litters of every variety and price, and contractors of camels, horses, and trains complete did not wait to be solicited; the competition between them was too lively for dignity. Hither and thither shepherds drove fatted sheep in flocks, selling them on the hoof. In shady places sandal merchants and clothiers were established; while sample tents spotted the whole landscape. Hucksters went about with figs, dates, dried meats and bread. In short, pilgrims could be accommodated with every conceivable necessary. They had only to cry out, and the commodity was at hand.
Amongst the thousands who arrived at El Katif in the last of June, 1448, was a man whose presence made him instantly an object of general interest. He came from the south in a galley of eight oars manned by Indian seamen, and lay at anchor three days before landing. His ship bore nothing indicative of nationality except the sailors. She was trim-looking and freshly painted; otherwise there was nothing uncommon in her appearance. She was not for war—that was plain. She floated too lightly to be laden; wherefore those who came to look at her said she could not be in commercial service.
Almost before furling sail, an awning was stretched over her from bow to stern—an awning which from the shore appeared one great shawl of variegated colors. Thereupon the wise in such matters decided the owner was an Indian Prince vastly rich, come, like a good Mohammedan, to approve his faith by pilgrimage.
This opinion the stranger's conduct confirmed. While he did not himself appear ashore, he kept up a busy communication by means of his small boat. For three days, it carried contractors of camels and supplies aboard, and brought them back.
They described him of uncertain age; he might be sixty, he might be seventy-five. While rather under medium height, he was active and perfectly his own master. He sat in the shade of the awning cross-legged. His rug was a marvel of sheeny silk. He talked Arabic, but with an Indian accent. His dress was Indian—a silken shirt, a short jacket, large trousers, and a tremendous white turban on a red tarbousche, held by an aigrette in front that was a dazzle of precious stones such as only a Rajah could own. His attendants were few, but they were gorgeously attired, wore shintyan swung in rich belts from their shoulders, and waited before him speechless and in servile posture. One at his back upheld an umbrella of immense spread. He indulged few words, and they were strictly business. He wanted a full outfit for the Hajj; could the contractor furnish him twenty camels of burden, and four swift dromedaries? Two of the latter were to carry a litter for himself; the other two were for his personal attendants, whom he desired furnished with well-shaded shugdufs. The camels he would load with provisions. While speaking, he would keep his eyes upon the person addressed with an expression uncomfortably searching. Most extraordinary, however, he did not once ask about prices.
One of the Shaykhs ventured an inquiry.
"How great will his Highness' suite be?"
The Shaykh threw up his hands.
"O Allah! Four dromedaries and twenty camels for four men!"
"Abuser of the salt," said the stranger calmly, "hast thou not heard of the paschal charity, and of the fine to the poor? Shall I go empty handed to the most sacred of cities?"
Finally an agent was found who, in concert with associates, undertook to furnish the high votary with all he asked complete.
The morning of the fourth day after his arrival the Indian was pulled ashore, and conducted out of town a short distance to where, on a rising ground, a camp had been set up provisionally for his inspection. There were tents, one for storage of goods and provisions; one for the suite; one for the chief Shaykh, the armed guards, the tent pitchers, and the camel drivers; and a fourth one, larger than the others, for the Prince himself. With the dromedaries, camels, and horses, the camp was accepted; then, as was the custom, the earnest money was paid. By set of sun the baggage was removed from the ship, and its partition into cargoes begun. The Prince of India had no difficulty in hiring all the help he required.
Of the thirty persons who constituted the train ten were armed horsemen, whose appearance was such that, if it were answered by a commensurate performance, the Prince might at his leisure march irrespective of the caravan. Nor was he unmindful in the selection of stores for the journey. Long before the sharp bargainers with whom he dealt were through with him, he had won their best opinion, not less by his liberality than for his sound judgment. They ceased speaking of him sneeringly as the miyan. [Footnote: Barbarous Indian]
Soon as the bargain was bound, the stranger's attendants set about the furnishment of the master's tent. Outside they painted it green. The interior they divided into two equal compartments; one for reception, the other for a maglis or drawing-room; and besides giving the latter divans and carpets, they draped the ceiling in the most tasteful manner with the shawls which on the ship had served for awning.
At length, everything in the catalogue of preparation having been attended to, it remained only to wait the day of general departure; and for that, as became his greatness, the Prince kept his own quarters, paying no attention to what went on around him. He appeared a man who loved solitude, and was averse to thinking in public.
THE YELLOW AIR [Footnote: The plague is known amongst Arabs as "the Yellow Air."]
One evening the reputed Indian sat by the door of his tent alone. The red afterglow of the day hung in the western sky. Overhead the stars were venturing timidly out. The camels were at rest, some chewing their cuds, others asleep, their necks stretched full length upon the warm earth. The watchmen in a group talked in low voices. Presently the cry of a muezzin, calling to prayer, flew in long, quavering, swelling notes through the hushed air. Others took up the call, clearer or fainter according to the distance; and so was it attuned to the feeling invoked by the conditions of the moment that no effort was required of a listener to think it a refrain from the sky. The watchmen ceased debating, drew a little apart from each other, spread their abbas on the ground, and stepping upon them barefooted, their faces turned to where Mecca lay, began the old unchangeable prayer of Islam—God is God, and Mahomet is His Prophet.
The pilgrim at the tent door arose, and when his rude employes were absorbed in their devotions, like them, he too prayed, but very differently.
"God of Israel—my God!" he said, in a tone hardly more than speaking to himself. "These about me, my fellow creatures, pray thee in the hope of life, I pray thee in the hope of death. I have come up from the sea, and the end was not there; now I will go into the Desert in search of it. Or if I must live, Lord, give me the happiness there is in serving thee. Thou hast need of instruments of good; let me henceforth be one of them, that by working for thy honor, I may at last enjoy the peace of the blessed—Amen."
Timing his movements with those of the watchmen, he sank to his knees, and repeated the prayer; when they fell forward, their faces to the earth in the rik'raths so essential by the Mohammedan code, he did the same. When they were through the service, he went on with it that they might see him. A careful adherence to this conduct gained him in a short time great repute for sanctity, making the pilgrimage enjoyable as well as possible to him.
The evening afterglow faded out, giving the world to night and the quiet it affects; still the melancholy Indian walked before his tent, his hands clasped behind him, his chin in the beard on his breast. Let us presume to follow his reflections.
"Fifty years! A lifetime to all but me. Lord, how heavy is thy hand when thou art in anger!"
He drew a long breath, and groaned.
"Fifty years! That they are gone, let those mourn to whom time is measured in scanty dole."
He became retrospective.
"The going to Cipango was like leaving the world. War had yielded to contentions about religion. I wearied of them also. My curse is to weary of everything. I wonder if the happiness found in the affection of women is more lasting?"
He pursued the thought awhile, finishing with a resolution.
"If the opportunity comes my way, I will try it. I remember yet the mother of my Lael, though I did not understand the measure of the happiness she brought me until she died."
He returned then to the first subject.
"When will men learn that faith is a natural impulse, and pure religion but faith refined of doubt?"
The question was succeeded by a wordless lapse in his mind, the better apparently to prolong the pleasure he found in the idea.
"God help me," he presently resumed, "to bring about an agreement in that definition of religion! There can be no reform or refinement of faith except God be its exclusive subject; and so certainly it leads to lopping off all parasitical worships such as are given to Christ and Mahomet.... Fifty years ago the sects would have tortured me had I mentioned God as a principle broad and holy enough for them to stand upon in compromise of their disputes; they may not be better disposed now, yet I will try them. If I succeed I will not be a vulgar monument builder like Alexander; neither will I divide a doubtful fame with Caesar. My glory will be unique. I will have restored mankind to their true relations with God. I will be their Arbiter in Religion. Then surely"—he lifted his face appealingly as to a person enthroned amidst the stars—"surely thou wilt release me from this too long life.... If I fail"—he clinched his hands—"if I fail, they may exile me, they may imprison me, they may stretch me on the rack, but they cannot kill me."
Then he walked rapidly, his head down, like a man driven. When he stopped it was to say to himself uncertainly:
"I feel weak at heart. Misgivings beset me. Lord, Lord, how long am I to go on thus cheating myself? If thou wilt not pardon me, how can I hope honor from my fellow men? Why should I struggle to serve them?"
Again he clinched his hands.
"Oh, the fools, the fools! Will they never be done? When I went away they were debating, Was Mahomet a Prophet? Was Christ the Messiah? And they are debating yet. What miseries I have seen come of the dispute!"
From this to the end, the monologue was an incoherent discursive medley, now plaintive, now passionate, at times prayerful, then exultant. As he proceeded, he seemed to lose sight of his present aim at doing good in the hope of release from termless life, and become the Jew he was born.
"The orators called in the sword, and they plied each other with it through two hundred years and more. There were highways across Europe blazoned with corpses.... But they were great days. I remember them. remember Manuel's appeal to Gregory. I was present at the Council of Clermont. I heard Urban's speech. I saw Walter, the beggar of Burgundy, a fugitive in Constantinople; but his followers, those who went out with him—where were they? I saw Peter, the eremite and coward, dragged back, a deserter, to the plague-smitten camps of Antioch. I helped vote Godfrey King of Jerusalem, and carried a candle at his coronation. I saw the hosts of Louis VII and Conrad, a million and more, swallowed up in Iconia and the Pisidian mountains. Then, that the persecutors of my race might not have rest, I marched with Saladin to the re-conquest of the Holy City, and heard Philip and Richard answer his challenge. The brave Kurd, pitying the sorrows of men, at last agreed to tolerate Christians in Jerusalem as pilgrims; and there the strife might have ended, but I played upon the ambition of Baldwin, and set Europe in motion again. No fault of mine that the knight stopped at Constantinople as King of the East. Then the second Frederick presumed to make a Christian city of Jerusalem. I resorted to the Turks, and they burned and pillaged it, and captured St. Louis, the purest and best of the crusaders. He died in my arms. Never before had I a tear for man or woman of his faith! Then came Edward I., and with him the struggle as a contest of armies terminated. By decision of the sword, Mahomet was the Prophet of God, and Christ but the carpenter's son.... By permission of the Kaliphs, the Christians might visit Jerusalem as pilgrims. A palmer's staff in place of a sword! For shield, a beggar's scrip! But the bishops accepted, and then ushered in an age of fraud, Christian against Christian.... The knoll on which the Byzantine built his church of the Holy Sepulchre is not the Calvary. That the cowled liars call the Sepulchre never held the body of Christ. The tears of the millions of penitents have but watered a monkish deceit.... Fools and blasphemers! The Via Dolorosa led out of the Damascus gate on the north. The skull-shaped hill beyond that gate is the Golgotha. Who should know it better than I? The Centurion asked for a guide; I walked with him. Hyssop was the only green thing growing upon the mount; nothing but hyssop has grown there since. At the base on the west was a garden, and the Sepulchre was in the garden. From the foot of the cross I looked toward the city, and there was a sea of men extending down to the gate.... I know!—I know!—I and misery know!... When I went out fifty years ago there was an agreement between the ancient combatants; each vied with the other in hating and persecuting the Jew, and there was no limit to the afflictions he endured from them.... Speak thou, O Hebron, city of the patriarchs! By him who sits afar, and by him near unto thee, by the stars this peaceful night, and by the Everlasting who is above the stars, be thou heard a witness testifying! There was a day when thou didst stand open to the children of Israel; for the cave and the dead within it belonged to them. Then Herod built over it, and shut it up, though without excluding the tribes. The Christian followed Herod; yet the Hebrew might pay his way in. After the Christian, the Moslem; and now nor David the King, nor son of his, though they alighted at the doors from chariots, and beat upon them with their crowns and sceptres, could pass in and live.... Kings have come and gone, and generations, and there is a new map from which old names have been dropped. As respects religion, alas! the divisions remain—here a Mohammedan, there a Christian, yonder a Judean.... From my door I study these men, the children of those in life at my going into exile. Their ardor is not diminished. To kiss a stone in which tradition has planted a saying of God, they will defy the terrors of the Desert, heat, thirst, famine, disease, death. I bring them an old idea in a new relation—God, giver of life and power to Son and Prophet—God, alone entitled to worship—God, a principle of Supreme Holiness to which believers can bring their creeds and doctrines for mergence in a treaty of universal brotherhood. Will they accept it? ... Yesterday I saw a Schiah and a Sunite meet, and the old hate darkened their faces as they looked at each other. Between them there is only a feud of Islamites; how much greater is their feud with Christians? How immeasurably greater the feud between Christian and Jew? ... My heart misgives me! Lord! Can it be I am but cherishing a dream?"
At sight of a man approaching through the dusk, he calmed himself.
"Peace to thee, Hadji," said the visitor, halting.
"Is it thou, Shaykh?"
"It is I, my father's son. I have a report to make."
"I was thinking of certain holy things of priceless worth, sayings of the Prophet. Tell me what thou hast?"
The Shaykh saluted him, and returned, "The caravan will depart to-morrow at sunrise."
"Be it so. We are ready. I will designate our place in the movement. Thou art dismissed."
"O Prince! I have more to report."
"A vessel came in to-day from Hormuz on the eastern shore, bringing a horde of beggars."
"Bismillah! It was well I hired of thee a herd of camels, and loaded them with food. I shall pay my fine to the poor early."
The Shaykh shook his head.
"That they are beggars is nothing," he said. "Allah is good to all his creatures. The jackals are his, and must be fed. For this perhaps the unfortunates were blown here by the angel that rides the yellow air. Four corpses were landed, and their clothes sold in the camp."
"Thou wouldst say," the Prince rejoined, "that the plague will go with us to the Kaaba. Content thee, Shaykh. Allah will have his way."
"But my men are afraid."
"I will place a drop of sweetened water on their lips, and bring them safe through, though they are dying. Tell them as much."
The Shaykh was departing when the Prince, shrewdly suspecting it was he who feared, called him back.
"How call ye the afternoon prayer, O Shaykh?"
"What didst thou when it was called?"
"Am I not a believer? I prayed."
"And thou hast heard the Arafat sermon?"
"Even so, O Prince."
"Then, as thou art a believer, and a hadji, O Shaykh, thou and all with thee shalt see the Khatib on his dromedary, and hear him again. Only promise me to stay till his last Amin."
"I promise," said the Shaykh, solemnly.
"Go—but remember prayer is the bread of faith."
The Shaykh was comforted, and withdrew.
With the rising of the sun next day the caravan, numbering about three thousand souls, defiled confusedly out of the town. The Prince, who might have been first, of choice fell in behind the rest.
"Why dost thou take this place, O Prince?" asked the Shaykh, who was proud of his company, and their comparative good order.
He received for answer, "The blessings of Allah are with the dying whom the well-to-do and selfish in front have passed unnoticed."
The Shaykh repeated the saying to his men, and they replied: "Ebn-Hanife was a Dervish: so is this Prince—exalted be his name!"
Eulogy could go no further.
"I will be their Arbiter in Religion," said the Indian Mystic in his monologue.
This is to be accepted as the motive of the scheme the singular man was pursuing in the wastes of Arabia.
It must be taken of course with his other declaration—"There can be no reform or refinement of faith except God be its exclusive subject; and so certainly it leads to lopping off all parasitical worships such as are given to Christ and Mahomet."
Fifty years prior, disgusted with the endless and inconsequential debates and wars between Islam and Christianity, he had betaken himself to Cipango, [Footnote: Supposably Japan.] wherever that might be. There, in a repentant hour, he had conceived the idea of a Universal Religious Brotherhood, with God for its accordant principle; and he was now returned to present and urge the compromise. In more distinct statement, he was making the pilgrimage to ascertain from personal observation if the Mohammedan portion of the world was in a consenting mood. It was not his first visit to Mecca; but the purpose in mind gave the journey a new zest; and, as can be imagined, nothing in the least indicative of the prevalent spirit of the Hajj escaped him. Readers following the narrative should keep this explanation before them.
From El Derayah the noble pilgrim had taken the longer route by way of Medina, where he scrupulously performed the observances decreed for the faithful at the Mosque of the Prophet. Thence he descended with the caravan from Damascus.
Dawn of the sixth of September broke over the rolling plain known as the Valley of El Zaribah, disclosing four tents pitched on an eminence to the right of a road running thence south-west. These tents, connected by ropes, helped perfect an enclosure occupied by horses, donkeys, camels and dromedaries, and their cumbrous equipments. Several armed men kept watch over the camp.
The Valley out to the pink granite hills rimming it round wore a fresh green tint in charming contrast with the tawny-black complexion of the region through which the day's journey had stretched. Water at a shallow depth nourished camel grass in patches, and Theban palms, the latter much scattered and too small to be termed trees. The water, and the nearness of the Holy City—only one day distant—had, in a time long gone, won for El Zaribah its double appointment of meeting place for the caravans and place of the final ceremony of assumption of the costume and vows El Ihram.
The Prophet himself had prescribed the ceremony; so the pilgrims in the camp on the eminence, the better to observe it and at the same time get a needful rest, had come up during the night in advance of the caravans. In other words, the Prince of India—the title by which he was now generally known—might, at the opening hour of the day, have been found asleep in the larger of the four tents; the one with the minaret in miniature so handsomely gilded and of such happy effect over the centre pole.
Along the roadsides and on the high grounds of the Valley other tints were visible, while faint columns of smoke arising out of the hollows told of preparations for breakfast. These signified the presence of hucksters, barbers, costume dealers, and traders generally, who, in anticipation of the arrival of the caravans, had come from the city to exercise their callings. Amongst them, worthy of special attention, was a multitude of professional guides, [Footnote: Mutawif.] ready for a trifling hire to take charge of uninitiated pilgrims, and lead them regardfully through the numerous ceremonies to which they were going.
Shortly after noon the Prince called in a guide, and several barbers, men with long gowns, green turbans, brass basins, sharp knives, and bright bladed scissors. The assumption of the real pilgrimage by his people was then begun. Each man submitted his head, mustaches, and nails to the experts, and bathed and perfumed himself, and was dusted with musk. Next the whole party put off their old garments, and attired themselves in the two white vestments El Ihram.[Footnote: A mantle and skirt of white cloth unsewn.] The change of apparel was for the better. Finally the votaries put on sandals peculiar in that nothing pertaining to them might cover the instep; then they stood up in a row faced toward Mecca, and repeated the ancient formula of dedication of the Ihram to the Almighty slowly intoned for them by the guide.
The solemn demeanor of the men during the ceremony, which was tedious and interspersed with prayers and curious recitals, deeply impressed the Prince, who at the end of the scene retired into his tent, with his three mute attendants, and there performed the vows for himself and them. There also they all assumed the indispensable costume. Then, as he well might do, the law permitting him to seek the shade of a house or a tent, he had a rug spread before his door, where, in the fresh white attire, he seated himself, and with a jar of expressed juice of pomegranates at his side made ready to witness the passing of the caravans, the dust of which was reported visible in the east.