NOW our dreary way is over, now the desert’s toil is past. Soon the river broadly flowing, through its green and palmy banks, to our wearied limbs shall offer baths ‘which caliphs cannot buy. Allah-illah, Allah-hu. Allah-illah, Allah-hu.’
‘Blessed the man who now may bear a relic from our Prophet’s tomb; blessed the man who now unfolds the treasures of a distant mart, jewels of the dusky East, and silks of farthest Samarcand. Allah-illah, Allah-hu. Allah-illah, Allah-hu.’
‘Him the sacred mosque shall greet with a reverence grave and low; him the busy Bezestein shall welcome with confiding smile. Holy merchant, now receive the double triumph of thy toil. Allah-illah, Allah-hu. Allah-illah, Allah-hu.’
‘The camel jibs, Abdallah! See, there is something in the track.’
‘By the holy stone,16 a dead man. Poor devil! One should never make a pilgrimage on foot. I hate your humble piety. Prick the beast and he will pass the corpse.’
‘The Prophet preaches charity, Abdallah. He has favoured my enterprise, and I will practise his precept. See if he be utterly dead.’
It was the Mecca caravan returning to Bagdad. The pilgrims were within a day’s journey of the Euphrates, and welcomed their approach to fertile earth with a triumphant chorus. Far as the eye could reach, the long line of their straggling procession stretched across the wilderness, thousands of camels in strings, laden with bales of merchandise, and each company headed by an animal of superior size, leading with tinkling bells; groups of horsemen, clusters of litters; all the pilgrims armed to their teeth, the van formed by a strong division of Seljukian cavalry, and the rear protected by a Kourdish clan, who guaranteed the security of the pious travellers through their country.
Abdallah was the favourite slave of the charitable merchant Ali. In obedience to his master’s orders, he unwillingly descended from his camel, and examined the body of the apparently lifeless Alroy.
‘A Kourd, by his dress,’ exclaimed Abdallah, with a sneer; ‘what does he here?’
‘It is not the face of a Kourd,’ replied Ali; ‘perchance a pilgrim from the mountains.’
‘Whatever he be, he is dead,’ answered the slave: ‘I doubt not an accursed Giaour.’
‘God is great,’ exclaimed Ali; ‘he breathes; the breast of his caftan heaved.’
”Twas the wind,’ said Abdallah.
”Twas the sigh of a human heart,’ answered Ali.
Several pilgrims who were on foot now gathered around the group.
‘I am a Hakim,’17 observed a dignified Armenian. ‘I will feel his pulse; ’tis dull, but it beats.’
‘There is but one God,’ exclaimed Ali.
‘And Mahomed is his Prophet,’ responded Abdallah. ‘You do not believe in him, you Armenian infidel.’
‘I am a Hakim,’ replied the dignified Armenian. ‘Although an infidel, God has granted me skill to cure true believers. Worthy Ali, believe me, the boy may yet live.’
‘Hakim, you shall count your own dirhems if he breathe in my divan in Bagdad,’ answered Ali; ‘I have taken a fancy to the boy. God has sent him to me. He shall carry my slippers.’
‘Give me a camel, and I will save his life.’
‘We have none,’ said the servant.
‘Walk, Abdallah,’ said the master.
‘Is a true believer to walk to save the life of a Kourd? Master slipper-bearer shall answer for this, if there be any sweetness in the bastinado,’ murmured Abdallah.
The Armenian bled Alroy; the blood flowed slowly but surely. The Prince of the Captivity opened his eyes.
‘There is but one God,’ exclaimed Ali.
‘The evil eye fall on him!’ muttered Abdallah.
The Armenian took a cordial from his vest, and poured it down his patient’s throat. The blood flowed more freely.
‘He will live, worthy merchant,’ said the physician.
‘And Mahomed is his Prophet,’ continued Ali.
‘By the stone of Mecca, I believe it is a Jew,’ shouted Abdallah.
‘The dog!’ exclaimed Ali.
‘Pah!’ said a negro slave, drawing back with disgust.
‘He will die,’ said the Christian physician, not even binding up the vein.
‘And be damned,’ said Abdallah, again jumping on his camel.
The party rode on, the caravan proceeded. A Kourdish horseman galloped forward. He curbed his steed as he passed Alroy bleeding to death.
‘What accursed slave has wounded one of my clan?’
The Kourd leaped off his horse, stripped off a slip of his blue shirt, stanched the wound, and carried the unhappy Alroy to the rear.
The desert ceased, the caravan entered upon a vast but fruitful plain. In the extreme distance might be descried a long undulating line of palm-trees. The vanguard gave a shout, shook their tall lances in the air, and rattled their scimitars in rude chorus against their small round iron shields. All eyes sparkled, all hands were raised, all voices sounded, save those that were breathless from overpowering joy. After months wandering in the sultry wilderness, they beheld the great Euphrates.
Broad and fresh, magnificent and serene, the mighty waters rolled through the beautiful and fertile earth. A vital breeze rose from their bosom. Every being responded to their genial influence. The sick were cured, the desponding became sanguine, the healthy and light-hearted broke into shouts of laughter, jumped from their camels, and embraced the fragrant earth, or, wild in their renovated strength, galloped over the plain, and threw their wanton jerreeds in the air,18 as if to show that suffering and labour had not deprived them of that skill and strength, without which it were vain again to enter the haunts of their less adventurous brethren.
The caravan halted on the banks of the broad river, glowing in the cool sunset. The camp was pitched, the plain glittered with tents. The camels, falling on their knees, crouched in groups, the merchandise piled up in masses by their sides. The unharnessed horses rushed neighing about the plain, tossing their glad heads, and rolling in the unaccustomed pasture. Spreading their mats, and kneeling towards Mecca, the pilgrims performed their evening orisons. Never was thanksgiving more sincere. They arose: some rushed into the river, some lighted lamps, some pounded coffee.19 Troops of smiling villagers arrived with fresh provisions, eager to prey upon such light hearts and heavy purses. It was one of those occasions when the accustomed gravity of the Orient disappears. Long through the night the sounds of music and the shouts of laughter were heard on the banks of that starry river; long through the night you might have listened with enchantment to the wild tales of the storier, or gazed with fascination on the wilder gestures of the dancing girls.20
The great bazaar of Bagdad afforded an animated and sumptuous spectacle on the day after the arrival of the caravan. All the rare and costly products of the world were collected in that celebrated mart: the shawls of Cachemire and the silks of Syria, the ivory, and plumes, and gold of Afric, the jewels of Ind, the talismans of Egypt, the perfumes and manuscripts of Persia, the spices and gums of Araby, beautiful horses, more beautiful slaves, cloaks of sable, pelisses of ermine, armour alike magnificent in ornament and temper, rare animals, still rarer birds, blue apes in silver collars, white gazelles bound by a golden chain, greyhounds, peacocks, paroquets. And everywhere strange, and busy, and excited groups; men of all nations, creeds, and climes: the sumptuous and haughty Turk, the graceful and subtle Arab, the Hebrew with his black cap and anxious countenance; the Armenian Christian, with his dark flowing robes, and mild demeanour, and serene visage. Here strutted the lively, affected, and superfine Persian; and there the Circassian stalked with his long hair and chain cuirass. The fair Georgian jostled the ebony form of the merchant of Dongola or Sennaar.
Through the long, narrow, arched, and winding streets of the bazaar, lined on each side with loaded stalls, all was bustle, bargaining, and barter. A passenger approached, apparently of no common rank. Two pages preceded him, beautiful Georgian boys, clothed in crimson cloth, and caps of the same material, sitting tight to their heads, with long golden tassels. One bore a blue velvet bag, and the other a clasped and richly bound volume. Four footmen, armed, followed their master, who rode behind the pages on a milk-white mule. He was a man of middle age, eminently handsome. His ample robes concealed the only fault in his appearance, a figure which indulgence had rendered somewhat too exuberant. His eyes were large, and soft, and dark; his nose aquiline, but delicately moulded; his mouth small, and beautifully proportioned; his lip full and red; his teeth regular and dazzling white. His ebony beard flowed, but not at too great a length, in graceful and natural curls, and was richly perfumed; a delicate mustachio shaded his upper lip, but no whisker was permitted to screen the form and shroud the lustre of his oval countenance and brilliant complexion. Altogether, the animal perhaps predominated too much in the expression of the stranger’s countenance; but genius beamed from his passionate eye, and craft lay concealed in that subtle lip. The dress of the rider was sumptuous. His turban, formed by a scarlet Cachemire shawl, was of great breadth, and concealing half of his white forehead, increased by the contrast the radiant height of the other. His under-vest was of white Damascus silk, stiff with silver embroidery, and confined by a girdle formed by a Brusa scarf of gold stuff, and holding a dagger, whose hilt appeared blazing with brilliants and rubies. His loose and exterior robe was of crimson cloth. His white hands sparkled with rings, and his ears glittered with pendulous gems.
‘Who is this?’ asked an Egyptian merchant, in a low whisper, of the dealer whose stuffs he was examining.
”Tis the Lord Honain,’ replied the dealer. ‘And who may he be?’ continued the Egyptian. ‘Is he the Caliph’s son?’
‘A much greater man; his physician.’ The white mule stopped at the very stall where this conversation was taking place. The pages halted, and stood on each side of their master, the footmen kept off the crowd.
‘Merchant,’ said Honain, with a gracious smile of condescension, and with a voice musical as a flute, ‘Merchant, did you obtain me my wish?’
‘There is but one God,’ replied the dealer, who was the charitable Ali, ‘and Mahomed is his Prophet. I succeeded, please your highness, in seeing at Aleppo the accursed Giaour, of whom I spoke, and behold, that which you desired is here.’ So saying, Ali produced several Greek manuscripts, and offered them to his visitor.
‘Hah!’ said Honain, with a sparkling eye, ”tis well; their cost?’
‘The infidel would not part with them under five hundred dirhems,’ replied Ali.
‘Ibrahim, see that this worthy merchant receive a thousand.’
‘As many thanks, my Lord Honain.’
The Caliph’s physician bowed gracefully.
‘Advance, pages,’ continued Honain; ‘why this stoppage? Ibrahim, see that our way be cleared. What is all this?’
A crowd of men advanced, pulling along a youth, who, almost exhausted, still singly struggled with his ungenerous adversaries.
‘The Cadi, the Cadi,’ cried the foremost of them, who was Abdallah, ‘drag him to the Cadi.’
‘Noble lord,’ cried the youth, extricating himself by a sudden struggle from the grasp of his captors, and seizing the robe of Honain, ‘I am innocent and injured. I pray thy help.’
‘The Cadi, the Cadi,’ exclaimed Abdallah; ‘the knave has stolen my ring, the ring given me by my faithful Fatima on our marriage-day, and which I would not part with for my master’s stores.’
The youth still clung to the robe of Honain, and, mute from exhaustion, fixed upon him his beautiful and imploring eye.
‘Silence,’ proclaimed Honain, ‘I will judge this cause.’
‘The Lord Honain, the Lord Honain, listen to the Lord Honain!’
‘Speak, thou brawler; of what hast thou to complain?’ said Honain to Abdallah.
‘May it please your highness,’ said Abdallah, in a whining voice, ‘I am the slave of your faithful servant, Ali: often have I had the honour of waiting on your highness. This young knave here, a beggar, has robbed me, while slumbering in a coffee-house, of a ring; I have my witnesses to prove my slumbering. ’Tis a fine emerald, may it please your highness, and doubly valuable to me as a love-token from my Fatima. No consideration in the world could induce me to part with it; and so, being asleep, here are three honest men who will prove the sleep, comes this little vagabond, may it please your highness, who while he pretends to offer me my coffee, takes him my finger, and slips off this precious ring, which he now wears upon his beggarly paw, and will not restore to me without the bastinado.’
‘Abdallah is a faithful slave, may it please your highness, and a Hadgee,’ said Ali, his master.
‘And what sayest thou, boy?’ inquired Honain.
‘That this is a false knave, who lies as slaves ever will.’
‘Pithy, and perhaps true,’ said Honain.
‘You call me a slave, you young scoundrel?’ exclaimed Abdallah; ‘shall I tell you what you are? Why, your highness, do not listen to him a moment. It is a shame to bring such a creature into your presence; for, by the holy stone, and I am a Hadgee, I doubt little he is a Jew.’
Honain grew somewhat pale, and bit his lip. He was perhaps annoyed that he had interfered so publicly in behalf of so unpopular a character as a Hebrew, but he was unwilling to desert one whom a moment before he had resolved to befriend, and he inquired of the youth where he had obtained the ring.
‘The ring was given to me by my dearest friend when I first set out upon an arduous pilgrimage not yet completed. There is but one person in the world, except the donor, to whom I would part with it, and with that person I am unacquainted. All this may seem improbable, but all this is true. I have truth alone to support me. I am destitute and friendless; but I am not a beggar, nor will any suffering induce me to become one. Feeling, from various circumstances, utterly exhausted, I entered a coffee-house and lay down, it may have been to die. I could not sleep, although my eyes were shut, and nothing would have roused me from a tremulous trance, which I thought was dying, but this plunderer here, who would not wait until death had permitted him quietly to possess himself of a jewel I value more than life.’
‘Show me the jewel.’
The youth held up his hand to Honain, who felt his pulse, and then took off the ring.
‘O, my Fatima!’ exclaimed Abdallah.
‘Silence, sir!’ said Honain. ‘Page, call a jeweller.’
Honain examined the ring attentively. Whether he were near-sighted, or whether the deceptive light of the covered bazaar prevented him from examining it with ease, he certainly raised his hand to his brow, and for some moments his countenance was invisible.
The jeweller arrived, and, pressing his hand to his heart, bowed before Honain.
‘Value this ring,’ said Honain, in a low voice.
The jeweller took the ring, viewed it in all directions with a scrutinising glance, held it to the light, pressed it to his tongue, turned it over and over, and finally declared that he could not sell such a ring under a thousand dirhems.
‘Whatever be the justice of the case,’ said Honain to Abdallah, ‘art thou ready to part with this ring for a thousand dirhems?’
‘Most certainly,’ said Abdallah. ‘And thou, lad, if the decision be in thy favour, wilt thou take for the ring double the worth at which the jeweller prizes it?’
‘My lord, I have spoken the truth. I cannot part with that ring for the palace of the Caliph.’
‘The truth for once is triumphant,’ said Honain. ‘Boy, the ring is thine; and for thee, thou knave,’ turning to Abdallah, ‘liar, thief, and slanderer! — for thee the bastinado,21 which thou destinedst for this innocent youth. Ibrahim, see that he receives five hundred. Young pilgrim, thou art no longer destitute or friendless. Follow me to my palace.’
The arched chamber was of great size and beautiful proportion. The ceiling, encrusted with green fretwork, and studded with silver stars, rested upon clustered columns of white and green marble. In the centre of a variegated pavement of the same material, a fountain rose and fell into a green porphyry basin, and by the side of the fountain, upon a couch of silver, reposed Honain.
He raised his eyes from the illuminated volume on which he had been long intent; he clapped his hands, and a Nubian slave advanced, and, folding his arms upon his breast, bowed in silence before his lord. ‘How fares the Hebrew boy, Analschar?’
‘Master, the fever has not returned. We gave him the potion; he slumbered for many hours, and has now awakened, weak but well.’
‘Let him rise and attend me.’
The Nubian disappeared.
‘There is nothing stranger than sympathy,’ soliloquised the physician of the Caliph, with a meditative air; ‘all resolves itself into this principle, and I confess this learned doctor treats it deeply and well. An erudite spirit truly, and an eloquent pen; yet he refines too much. ’Tis too scholastic. Observation will teach us more than dogma. Meditating upon my passionate youth, I gathered wisdom. I have seen so much that I have ceased to wonder. However we doubt, there is a mystery beyond our penetration. And yet ’tis near our grasp. I sometimes deem a step, a single step, would launch us into light. Here comes my patient. The rose has left his cheek, and his deep brow is wan and melancholy. Yet ’tis a glorious visage, Meditation’s throne; and Passion lingers in that languid eye. I know not why, a strong attraction draws me to this lone child.
‘Gentle stranger, how fares it with thee?’
‘Very well, my lord. I come to thank thee for all thy goodness. My only thanks are words, and those too weak; and yet the orphan’s blessing is a treasure.’
‘You are an orphan, then’
‘I have no parent but my father’s God.’
‘And that God is ——’
‘The God of Israel.’
‘So I deemed. He is a Deity we all must honour; if he be the great Creator whom we all allow.’
‘He is what he is, and we are what we are, a fallen people, but faithful still.’
‘Fidelity is strength.’
‘Thy words are truth, and strength must triumph.’
‘Many a prophet is little honoured, till the future proves his inspiration.’
‘You are young and sanguine.’
‘So was my ancestor within the vale of Elah. But I speak unto a Moslem, and this is foolishness.’
‘I have read something, and can take your drift. As for my faith, I believe in truth, and wish all men to do the same. By-the-bye, might I inquire the name of him who is the inmate of my house?’
‘They call me David.’
‘David, you have a ring, an emerald cut with curious characters, Hebrew, I believe.’
‘A fine stone, and this inscription means ——’
‘A simple legend, “Parted, but one;” the kind memorial of a brother’s love.’
‘I never had a brother.’
‘I have a silly fancy for this ring: you hesitate. Search my palace, and choose the treasure you deem its match.’
‘Noble sir, the gem is little worth; but were it such might deck a Caliph’s brow, ’twere a poor recompense for all thy goodness. This ring is a trust rather than a possession, and strange to say, although I cannot offer it to thee who mayst command, as thou hast saved, the life of its unhappy wearer, some stranger may cross my path tomorrow, and almost claim it as his own.’
‘And that stranger is ——’
‘The brother of the donor.’
‘The brother of Jabaster?’
‘Even so. I am that parted brother.’
‘Great is the God of Israel! Take the ring. But what is this? the brother of Jabaster a turbaned chieftain! a Moslem! Say, but say, that thou hast not assumed their base belief; say, but say, that thou hast not become a traitor to our covenant, and I will bless the fortunes of this hour.’
‘I am false to no God. Calm thyself, sweet youth. These are higher questions than thy faint strength can master now. Another time we’ll talk of this, my boy; at present of my brother and thyself. He lives and prospers?’
‘He lives in faith; the pious ever prosper.’
‘A glorious dreamer! Though our moods are different, I ever loved him. And thyself? Thou art not what thou seemest. Tell me all. Jabaster’s friend can be no common mind. Thy form has heralded thy fame. Trust me.’
‘I am Alroy.’
‘What! the Prince of our Captivity?’
‘The slayer of Alschiroch?’
‘My sympathy was prophetic. I loved thee from the first. And what dost thou here? A price is set upon thy head: thou knowest it?’
‘For the first time; but I am neither astonished nor alarmed. I am upon the Lord’s business.’
‘What wouldst thou?’
‘Free his people.’
‘The pupil of Jabaster: I see it all. Another victim to his reveries. I’ll save this boy. David — for thy name must not be sounded within this city — the sun is dying. Let us to the terrace, and seek the solace of the twilight breeze.’
‘What is the hour, David?’
‘Near to midnight. I marvel if thy brother may read in the stars our happy meeting.’
‘Men read that which they wish. He is a learned Cabalist.’
‘But what we wish comes from above.’
‘So they say. We make our fortunes, and we call them Fate.’
‘Yet the Voice sounded, the Daughter of the Voice that summoned Samuel.’
‘You have told me strange things; I have heard stranger solved.’
‘My faith is a rock.’
‘On which you may split.’
‘Art thou a Sadducee?’
‘I am a man who knows men.’
‘You are learned, but different from Jabaster.’
‘We are the same, though different. Day and Night are both portions of Time.’
‘And thy portion is ——’
‘That is, light.’
‘Yes; so dazzling that it sometimes seems dark.’
‘Like thy meaning.’
‘You are young.’
‘Is youth a defect?’
‘No, the reverse. But we cannot eat the fruit while the tree is in blossom.’
‘I have studied.’
‘All sacred things.’
‘How know you that they are sacred?’
‘They come from God.’
‘So does everything. Is everything sacred?’
‘They are the deep expression of his will.’
‘According to Jabaster. Ask the man who prays in yonder mosque, and he will tell you that Jabaster’s wrong.’
‘After all, thou art a Moslem?’
‘I have told you, a man.’
‘But what dost thou worship?’
‘What is worship?’
‘Adoration due from the creature to the Creator.’
‘Which is he?’
‘The God of Israel?’
‘A frail minority, then, burn incense to him.’
‘We are the chosen people.’
‘Chosen for scoffs, and scorns, and contumelies. Commend me to such choice.’
‘We forgot Him, before He chastened us.’
‘Why did we?’
‘Thou knowest the records of our holy race.’
‘Yes, I know them; like all records, annals of blood.’
‘Annals of victory, that will dawn again.’
‘If redemption be but another name for carnage, I envy no Messiah.’
‘Art thou Jabaster’s brother?’ ‘So our mother was wont to say: a meek and blessed woman.’
‘Lord Honain, thou art rich, and wise, and powerful. Thy fellow-men speak of thee only with praise or fear, and both are cheering. Thou hast quitted our antique ark; why, no matter. We’ll not discuss it. ’Tis something; if a stranger, at least thou art not a renegade. The world goes well with thee, my Lord Honain. But if, instead of bows and blessings, thou, like thy brethren, wert greeted only with the cuff and curse; if thou didst rise each morning only to feel existence to be dishonour, and to find thyself marked out among surrounding men as something foul and fatal; if it were thy lot, like theirs, at best to drag on a mean and dull career, hopeless and aimless, or with no other hope or aim but that which is degrading, and all this, too, with a keen sense of thy intrinsic worth, and a deep conviction of superior race; why, then, perchance, Honain might even discover ’twere worth a struggle to be free and honoured.’ ‘I pray your pardon, sir; I thought you were Jabaster’s pupil, a dreaming student. I see you have a deep ambition.’
‘I am a prince; and I fain would be a prince without my fetters.’
‘Listen to me, Alroy,’ said Honain in a low voice, and he placed his arm around him, ‘I am your friend. Our acquaintance is very brief: no matter, I love you; I rescued you in injury, I tended you in sickness, even now your life is in my power, I would protect it with my own. You cannot doubt me. Our affections are not under our own control; and mine are yours. The sympathy between us is entire. You see me, you see what I am; a Hebrew, though unknown; one of that despised, rejected, persecuted people, of whom you are the chief. I too would be free and honoured. Freedom and honour are mine, but I was my own messiah. I quitted in good time our desperate cause, but I gave it a trial. Ask Jabaster how I fought. Youth could be my only excuse for such indiscretion. I left this country; I studied and resided among the Greeks. I returned from Constantinople, with all their learning, some of their craft. No one knew me. I assumed their turban, and I am the Lord Honain. Take my experience, child, and save yourself much sorrow. Turn your late adventure to good account. No one can recognise you here. I will introduce you amongst the highest as my child by some fair Greek. The world is before you. You may fight, you may love, you may revel. War, and Women, and luxury are all at your command. With your person and talents you may be grand vizir. Clear your head of nonsense. In the present disordered state of the empire, you may even carve yourself out a kingdom, infinitely more delightful than the barren land of milk and honey. I have seen it, child; a rocky wilderness, where I would not let my courser graze.’
He bent down, and fixed his eyes upon his companion with a scrutinising glance. The moonlight fell upon the resolved visage of the Prince of the Captivity.
‘Honain,’ he replied, pressing his hand, ‘I thank thee. Thou knowest not me, but still I thank thee.’
‘You are resolved, then, on destruction.’
‘On glory, eternal glory.’
‘Is it possible to succeed?’
‘Is it possible to fail?’
‘You are mad.’
‘I am a believer.’
‘Enough. You have yet one chance. My brother has saddled your enterprise with a condition, and an impossible one. Gain the sceptre of Solomon, and I will agree to be your subject. You will waste a year in this frolic. You are young, and can afford it. I trust you will experience nothing worse than a loss of time, which is, however, valuable. My duty will be, after all your sufferings, to send you forth on your adventures in good condition, and to provide you means for a less toilsome pilgrimage than has hitherto been your lot. Trust me, you will return to Bagdad to accept my offers. At present, the dews are descending, and we will return to our divan, and take some coffee.’
Some few days after this conversation on the terrace, as Alroy was reclining in a bower, in the beautiful garden of his host, meditating on the future, some one touched him on the back. He looked up. It was Honain.
‘Follow me,’ said the brother of Jabaster.
The Prince rose, and followed him in silence. They entered the house, and, passing through the saloon already described, they proceeded down a long gallery, which terminated in an arched flight of broad steps leading to the river. A boat was fastened to the end of the stairs, floating on the blue line of the Tigris, bright in the sun.
Honain now gave to Alroy a velvet bag, which he requested him to carry, and then they descended the steps and entered the covered boat; and, without any directions to the rower, they were soon skimming over the water. By the sound of passing vessels, and the occasional shouts of the boatmen, Alroy, although he could observe nothing, was conscious that for some time their course lay through a principal thoroughfare of the city; but by degrees the sounds became less frequent, and in time entirely died away, and all that caught his ear was the regular and monotonous stroke of their own oar.
At length, after the lapse of nearly an hour from their entrance, the boat stopped, and was moored against a quay. The curtains were withdrawn, and Honain and his companion debarked.
A low but extensive building, painted in white and gold arabesque, and irregular but picturesque in form, with many small domes, and tall thin towers, rose amid groves of cypress on the bank of the broad and silent river. The rapid stream had carried them far from the city, which was visible but distant. Around was no habitation, no human being. The opposite bank was occupied by enclosed gardens. Not even a boat passed.
Honain, beckoning to Alroy to accompany him, but still silent, advanced to a small portal, and knocked. It was instantly opened by a single Nubian, who bowed reverently as the visitors passed him. They proceeded along a low and gloomy passage, covered with arches of fretwork, until they arrived at a door of tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl.22 Here Honain, who was in advance, turned round to Alroy, and said, ‘Whatever happen, and whoever may address you, as you value your life and mine, do not speak.’
The door opened, and they found themselves in a vast and gorgeous hall. Pillars of many-coloured marbles rose from a red and blue pavement of the same material, and supported a vaulted, circular, and highly-embossed roof of purple, scarlet, and gold.23 Around a fountain, which rose fifty feet in height from an immense basin of lapis-lazuli, and reclining on small yellow Barbary mats, was a group of Nubian eunuchs, dressed in rich habits of scarlet and gold,24 and armed with ivory battle-axes, the white handles worked in precious arabesque finely contrasting with the blue and brilliant blades.
The commander of the eunuch-guard rose on seeing Honain, and pressing his hand to his head, mouth, and heart, saluted him. The physician of the Caliph, motioning Alroy to remain, advanced some paces in front of him, and entered into a whispering conversation with the eunuch. After a few minutes, this officer resumed his seat, and Honain, beckoning to Alroy to rejoin him, crossed the hall.
Passing through an open arch, they entered a quadrangular court of roses,25 each bed of flowers surrounded by a stream of sparkling water, and floating like an enchanted islet upon a fairy ocean. The sound of the water and the sweetness of the flowers blended together, and produced a lulling sensation, which nothing but his strong and strange curiosity might have enabled Alroy to resist. Proceeding along a cloister of light airy workmanship which connected the hall with the remainder of the buildings, they stood before a lofty and sumptuous portal.
It was a monolith gate, thirty feet in height, formed of one block of green and red jasper, and cut into the fanciful undulating arch of the Saracens. The consummate artist had seized the advantage afforded to him by the ruddy veins of the precious stone, and had formed them in bold relief into two vast and sinuous serpents, which shot forth their crested heads and glittering eyes at Honain and his companion.
The physician of the Caliph, taking his dagger from his girdle, struck the head of one of the serpents thrice. The massy portal opened with a whirl and a roar, and before them stood an Abyssinian giant,26 holding in his leash a roaring lion.
‘Hush, Haroun!’ said Honain to the animal, raising at the same time his arm; and the beast crouched in silence. ‘Worthy Morgargon, I bring you a remembrance.’ The Abyssinian showed his tusks, larger and whiter than the lion’s, as he grinningly received the tribute of the courtly Honain; and he uttered a few uncouth sounds, but he could not speak, for he was a mute.
The jasper portal introduced the companions to a long and lofty and arched chamber, lighted by high windows of stained glass, hung with tapestry of silk and silver, covered with prodigious carpets, and surrounded by immense couches. And thus through similar chambers they proceeded, in some of which were signs of recent habitation, until they arrived at another quadrangle nearly filled by a most singular fountain which rose from a basin of gold encrusted with pearls, and which was surrounded by figures of every rare quadruped27 in the most costly materials. Here a golden tiger, with flaming eyes of ruby and flowing stripes of opal, stole, after some bloody banquet, to the refreshing brink; a camelopard raised its slender neck of silver from the centre of a group of every inhabitant of the forest; and brilliant bands of monkeys, glittering with precious stones, rested, in every variety of fantastic posture, on the margin of the basin.
The fountain itself was a tree of gold and silver28 spreading into innumerable branches, covered with every variety of curious birds, their plumage appropriately imitated by the corresponding tints of precious stones, which warbled in beautiful melody as they poured forth from their bills the musical and refreshing element.
It was with difficulty that Alroy could refrain from an admiring exclamation, but Honain, ever quick, turned to him, with his finger pressed on his mouth, and quitting the quadrangle, they entered the gardens.
Lofty terraces, dark masses of cypress, winding walks of acacia, in the distance an interminable paradise, and here and there a glittering pavilion and bright kiosk! Its appearance on the river had not prepared Alroy for the extent of the palace itself. It seemed infinite, and it was evident that he had only viewed a small portion of it. While they were moving on, there suddenly rose a sound of trumpets. The sound grew nearer and nearer, louder and louder: soon was heard the tramp of an approaching troop. Honain drew Alroy aside. A procession appeared advancing from a dark grove of cypress. Four hundred men led as many white bloodhounds with collars of gold and rubies.29 Then came one hundred men, each with a hooded hawk; then six horsemen in rich dresses; after them a single horseman, mounted on a steed, marked on its forehead with a star.30 The rider was middle-aged, handsome, and dignified. He was plainly dressed, but the staff of his hunting-spear was entirely of diamonds and the blade of gold.
He was followed by a company of Nubian eunuchs, with their scarlet dresses and ivory battle-axes, and the procession closed.
‘The Caliph,’ whispered Honain, when they had passed, placing at the same time his finger on his lip to prevent any inquiry. This was the first intimation that had reached Alroy of what he had already suspected, that he was a visitor to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful.
The companions turned down a wild and winding walk, which, after some time, brought them to a small and gently sloping lawn, surrounded by cedar-trees of great size. Upon the lawn was a kiosk, a long and many-windowed building, covered with blinds, and further screened by an overhanging roof. The kiosk was built of white and green marble, the ascent to it was by a flight of steps the length of the building, alternately of white and green marble, and nearly covered with rose-trees. Honain went up these steps alone, and entered the kiosk. After a few minutes he looked out from the blinds and beckoned to Alroy. David advanced, but Honain, fearful of some indiscretion, met him, and said to him in a low whisper between his teeth, ‘Remember you are deaf, a mute, and a eunuch.’ Alroy could scarcely refrain from smiling, and the Prince of the Captivity and the physician of the Caliph entered the kiosk together. Two women, veiled, and two eunuchs of the guard, received them in an antechamber. And then they passed into a room which ran nearly the whole length of the kiosk, opening on one side to the gardens, and on the other supported by an ivory wall, with niches painted in green fresco, and in each niche a rose-tree. Each niche, also, was covered with an almost invisible golden grate, which confined a nightingale, and made him constant to the rose he loved. At the foot of each niche was a fountain, but, instead of water, each basin was replenished with the purest quicksilver.31 The roof of the kiosk was of mother-of-pearl inlaid with tortoise-shell; the pavement, a mosaic of rare marbles and precious stones, representing the most delicious fruits and the most beautiful flowers. Over this pavement, a Georgian page flung at intervals refreshing perfumes. At the end of this elegant chamber was a divan of light green silk, embroidered with pearls, and covered with cushions of white satin and gold. Upon one of these cushions, in the middle of the divan, sat a lady, her eyes fixed in abstraction upon a volume of Persian poetry lying on her knees, one hand playing with a rosary of pearls and emeralds,32 and the other holding a long gold chain, which imprisoned a white gazelle.
The lady looked up as Honain and his companion entered. She was very young, as youthful as Alroy. Her long light brown hair, drawn off a high white forehead covered with blue veins, fell braided with pearls over each shoulder. Her eyes were large and deeply blue; her nose small, but high and aquiline. The fairness of her face was dazzling, and, when she looked up and greeted Honain, her lustrous cheeks broke into dimples, the more fascinating from their contrast with the general expression of her countenance, which was haughty and derisive. The lady was dressed in a robe of crimson silk girded round her waist by a green shawl, from which peeped forth the diamond hilt of a small poniard.33 Her round white arms looked infinitely small, as they occasionally flashed forth from their large loose hanging sleeves. One was covered with jewels, and the right arm was quite bare.
Honain advanced, and, bending, kissed the lady’s proffered hand. Alroy fell into the background.
‘They told me that the Rose of the World drooped this morning,’ said the physician, bending again as he smiled, ‘and her slave hastened at her command to tend her.’
‘It was a south wind. The wind has changed, and the Rose of the World is better,’ replied the lady laughing.
Honain touched her pulse.
‘Irregular,’ said the physician.
‘Like myself,’ said the lady. ‘Is that a new slave?’
‘A recent purchase, and a great bargain. He is good-looking, has the advantage of being deaf and dumb, and is harmless in every respect.’
”Tis a pity,’ replied the lady; ‘it seems that all good-looking people are born to be useless. I, for instance.’
‘Yet rumour whispers the reverse,’ remarked the physician.
‘How so?’ inquired the lady.
‘The young King of Karasmé.’
‘Poh! I have made up my mind to detest him. A barbarian!’
‘Have you ever seen him?’
‘Is he not a conqueror? All the plunder of the world will be yours.’
‘I am tired of magnificence. I built this kiosk to forget it.’
‘It is not in the least degree splendid,’ said Honain, looking round with a smile.
‘No,’ answered the lady, with a self-satisfied air: ‘here, at least, one can forget one has the misfortune to be a princess.’
‘It is certainly a great misfortune,’ said the physician.
‘And yet it must be the only tolerable lot,’ replied the lady.
‘Assuredly,’ replied Honain.
‘For our unhappy sex, at least.’
‘If I were only a man!’
‘What a hero you would be!’
‘I should like to live in endless confusion.’
‘I have not the least doubt of it.’
‘Have you got me the books?’ eagerly inquired the Princess.
‘My slave bears them,’ replied Honain.
‘Let me see them directly.’
Honain took the bag from Alroy, and unfolded its contents; the very volumes of Greek romances which Ali, the merchant, had obtained for him.
‘I am tired of poetry,’ said the Princess, glancing over the costly volumes, and tossing them away; ‘I long to see the world.’
‘You would soon be tired of that,’ replied the physician.
‘I suppose common people are never tired.’ said the Princess.
‘Except with labour;’ said the physician; ‘care keeps them alive.’
‘What is care?’ asked the Princess, with a smile.
‘It is a god,’ replied the physician, ‘invisible, but omnipotent. It steals the bloom from the cheek and lightness from the pulse; it takes away the appetite, and turns the hair grey.’
‘It is no true divinity, then,’ replied the Princess, ‘but an idol we make ourselves. I am a sincere Moslem, and will not worship it. Tell me some news, Honain.’
‘The young King of Karasmé——’
‘Again! the barbarian! You are in his pay. I’ll none of him. To leave one prison, and to be shut up in another — why do you remind me of it? No, my dear Hakim, if I marry at all, I will marry to be free.’
‘An impossibility,’ said Honain.
‘My mother was free till she was a queen and a slave. I intend to end as she began. You know what she was.’
Honain knew well, but he was too politic not to affect ignorance.
‘The daughter of a bandit,’ continued the Princess, ‘who fought by the side of her father. That is existence! I must be a robber. ’Tis in the blood. I want my fate foretold, Honain. You are an astrologer; do it.’
‘I have already cast your nativity. Your star is à comet.’
‘That augurs well; brilliant confusion and erratic splendour. I wish I were a star,’ added the Princess in a deep rich voice, and with a pensive air; ‘a star in the clear blue sky, beautiful and free. Honain, Honain, the gazelle has broken her chain, and is eating my roses.’
Alroy rushed forward and seized the graceful truant. Honain shot him an anxious look; the Princess received the chain from the hand of Alroy, and cast at him a scrutinising glance.
‘What splendid eyes the poor beast has got!’ exclaimed the Princess.
‘The gazelle?’ inquired the physician.
‘No, your slave,’ replied the Princess. ‘Why, he blushes. Were he not deaf as well as dumb, I could almost believe he understood me.’
‘He is modest,’ replied Honain, rather alarmed; ‘and is frightened at the liberty he has taken.’
‘I like modesty,’ said the Princess; ‘it is interesting. I am modest; you think so?’
‘Certainly,’ said Honain.
‘I detest an interesting person. After all, there is nothing like plain dulness.’
‘Nothing,’ said Honain.
‘The day flows on so serenely in such society.’
‘It does,’ said Honain.
‘No confusion; no scenes.’
‘I make it a rule only to have ugly slaves.’
‘You are quite right.’
‘Honain, will you ever contradict me? You know very well I have the handsomest slaves in the world.’
‘Every one knows it.’
‘And, do you know, I have taken a great fancy to your new purchase, who, according to your account, is eminently qualified for the post. Why, do you not agree with me?’
‘Why, yes; I doubt not your Highness would find him eminently qualified, and certainly few things would give me greater pleasure than offering him for your acceptance; but I got into such disgrace by that late affair of the Circassian, that ——’
‘Oh! leave it to me,’ said the Princess.
‘Certainly,’ said the physician, turning the conversation; ‘and when the young King of Karasmé arrives at Bagdad, you can offer him to his majesty as a present.’
‘Delightful! and the king is really handsome and young as well as brave; but has he any taste?’
‘You have enough for both.’
‘If he would but make war against the Greeks!’
‘Why so violent against the poor Greeks?’
‘You know they are Giaours. Besides, they might beat him, and then I should have the pleasure of being taken prisoner.’
‘Charming! to see Constantinople, and marry the Emperor.’
‘Marry the Emperor!’
‘To be sure. Of course he would fall in love with me.’
‘And then, and then, I might conquer Paris!’
‘You have been at Paris?’34
‘The men are shut up there,’ said the Princess with a smile, ‘are they not? and the women do what they like?’
‘You will always do what you like,’ said Honain, rising.
‘You are going?’
‘My visits must not be too long.’
‘Farewell, dear Honain!’ said the Princess, with a melancholy air. ‘You are the only person who has an idea in all Bagdad, and you leave me. A miserable lot is mine, to feel everything, and be nothing. These books and flowers, these sweet birds, and this fair gazelle: ah! poets may feign as they please, but how cheerfully would I resign all these elegant consolations of a captive life for one hour of freedom! I wrote some verses on myself yesterday; take them, and get them blazoned for me by the finest scribe in the city; letters of silver on a violet ground with a fine flowing border; I leave the design to you. Adieu! Come hither, mute.’ Alroy advanced to her beckon, and knelt. ‘There, take that rosary for thy master’s sake, and those dark eyes of thine.’
The companions withdrew, and reached their boat in silence. It was sunset. The musical and sonorous voice of the Muezzin resounded from the innumerable minarets of the splendid city. Honain threw back the curtains of the barque. Bagdad rose before them in huge masses of sumptuous dwellings, seated amid groves and gardens. An infinite population, summoned by the invigorating twilight, poured forth in all directions. The glowing river was covered with sparkling caiques, the glittering terraces with showy groups. Splendour, and power, and luxury, and beauty were arrayed before them in their most captivating forms, and the heart of Alroy responded to their magnificence. ‘A glorious vision!’ said the Prince of the Captivity.
‘Very different from Hamadan,’ said the physician of the Caliph.
‘To-day I have seen wonders,’ said Alroy.
‘The world is opening to you,’ said Honain.
Alroy did not reply; but after some minutes he said, in a hesitating voice, ‘Who was that lady?’
‘The Princess Schirene,’ replied Honain, ‘the favourite daughter of the Caliph. Her mother was a Georgian and a Giaour.’
The moonlight fell upon the figure of Alroy lying on a couch; his face was hidden by his arm. He was motionless, but did not sleep.
He rose and paced the chamber with agitated steps; sometimes he stopped, and gazed on the pavement, fixed in abstraction. He advanced to the window, and cooled his feverish brow in the midnight air.
An hour passed away, and the young Prince of the Captivity remained fixed in the same position. Suddenly he turned to a tripod of porphyry, and, seizing a rosary of jewels, pressed it to his lips.
‘The Spirit of my dreams, she comes at last; the form for which I have sighed and wept; the form which rose upon my radiant vision when I shut my eyes against the jarring shadows of this gloomy world.
‘Schirene! Schirene! here in this solitude I pour to thee the passion long stored up: the passion of my life, no common life, a life full of deep feeling and creative thought. O beautiful! O more than beautiful! for thou to me art as a dream unbroken: why art thou not mine? why lose a moment in our glorious lives, and balk our destiny of half its bliss?
‘Fool, fool, hast thou forgotten? The rapture of a prisoner in his cell, whose wild fancy for a moment belies his fetters! The daughter of the Caliph and a Jew!
‘Give me my fathers’ sceptre.
‘A plague on talismans! Oh! I need no inspiration but her memory, no magic but her name. By heavens! I will enter this glorious city a conqueror, or die.
‘Why, what is Life? for meditation mingles ever with my passion: why, what is Life? Throw accidents to the dogs, and tear off the painted mask of false society! Here am I a hero; with a mind that can devise all things, and a heart of superhuman daring, with youth, with vigour, with a glorious lineage, with a form that has made full many a lovely maiden of our tribe droop her fair head by Hamadan’s sweet fount, and I am-nothing!
‘Out on Society! ’twas not made for me. I’ll form my own, and be the deity I sometimes feel.
‘We make our fortunes, and we call them Fate. Thou saidst well, Honain. Most subtle Sadducee! The saintly blood flowed in my fathers’ veins, and they did nothing; but I have an arm formed to wield a sceptre, and I will win one.
‘I cannot doubt my triumph. Triumph is a part of my existence. I am born for glory, as a tree is born to bear its fruit, or to expand its flowers. The deed is done. ’Tis thought of, and ’tis done. I will confront the greatest of my diademed ancestors, and in his tomb. Mighty Solomon! he wedded Pharaoh’s daughter. Hah! what a future dawns upon my hope. An omen, a choice omen!
‘Heaven and earth are mingling to form my fortunes. My mournful youth, which I have so often cursed, I hail thee: thou wert a glorious preparation; and when feeling no sympathy with the life around me, I deemed myself a fool, I find that I was a most peculiar being. By heavens, I am joyful; for the first time in my life I am joyful. I could laugh, and fight, and drink. I am new-born; I am another being; I am mad!
‘O Time, great Time! the world belies thy fame. It calls thee swift. Methinks thou art wondrous slow. Fly on, great Time, and on thy coming wings bear me my sceptre!
‘All is to be. It is a lowering thought. My fancy, like a bright and wearied bird, will sometimes flag and fall, and then I am lost. The young King of Karasmé, a youthful hero! Would he had been Alschiroch! My heart is sick even at the very name. Alas! my trials have not yet begun. Jabaster warned me: good, sincere Jabaster! His talisman presses on my frantic heart, and seems to warn me. I am in danger. Braggart to stand here, filling the careless air with idle words, while all is unaccomplished. I grow dull. The young King of Karasmé! Why, what am I compared to this same prince? Nothing, but in my thoughts. In the full bazaar, they would not deem me worthy even to hold his stirrup or his slipper —— Oh! this contest, this constant, bitter, never-ending contest between my fortune and my fancy! Why do I exist? or, if existing, why am I not recognised as I would be?
‘Sweet voice, that in Jabaster’s distant cave descendedst from thy holy home above, and whispered consolation, breathe again! Again breathe thy still summons to my lonely ear, and chase away the thoughts that hover round me; thoughts dark and doubtful, like fell birds of prey hovering around a hero in expectation of his fall, and gloating on their triumph over the brave. There is something fatal in these crowded cities. Faith flourishes in solitude.’
He threw himself upon the couch, and, leaning down his head, seemed lost in meditation. He started up, and, seizing his tablets, wrote upon them these words:
‘Honain, I have been the whole night like David in the wilderness of Ziph; but, by the aid of the Lord, I have conquered. I fly from this dangerous city upon his business, which I have too much neglected. Attempt not to discover me, and accept my gratitude.’
16—By the holy stone. The Caaba. — The Caaba is the same to the Mahomedan as the Holy Sepulchre to the Christian. It is the most unseemly, but the most sacred, part of the mosque at Mecca, and is a small, square stone building.]
17—I am a Hakim; i.e. Physician, an almost sacred character in the East. As all Englishmen travel with medicine-chests, the Turks are not be wondered at for considering us physicians.]
18—Threw their wanton jerreeds in the air. The Persians are more famous for throwing the jerreed than any other nation. A Persian gentleman, while riding quietly by your side, will suddenly dash off at full gallop, then suddenly check his horse, and take a long aim with his lance with admirable precision. I should doubt, however, whether he could hurl a lance a greater distance or with greater force and effect than a Nubian, who will fix a mark at sixty yards with his javelin.]
19—Some pounded coffee. The origin of the use of coffee is obscure; but there is great reason to believe that it had not been introduced in the time of Alroy. When we consider that the life of an Oriental at the present day mainly consists in drinking coffee and smoking tobacco, we cannot refrain from asking ourselves, ‘What did he do before either of these comparatively modern inventions was discovered?’ For a long time, I was inclined to suspect that tobacco might have been in use in Asia before it was introduced into Europe; but a passage in old Sandys, in which he mentions the wretched tobacco smoke in Turkey, and accounts for it by that country being supplied with ‘the dregs of our markets,’ demonstrates that, in his time, there was no native growth in Asia. Yet the choicest tobaccos are now grown on the coast of Syria, the real Levant. But did the Asiatics smoke any other plant or substance before tobacco? In Syria, at the present day, they smoke a plant called timbac; the Chinese smoke opium; the artificial preparations for the hookah are known to all Indians. I believe, however, that these are all refinements, and for this reason, that in the classic writers, who were as well acquainted with the Oriental nations as ourselves, we find no allusion to the practice of smoking. The anachronism of the pipe I have not therefore ventured to commit, and that of coffee will, I trust, be pardoned.]
20—Wilder gestures of the dancing girls. These dancing girls abound throughout Asia. The most famous are the Almeh of Egypt, and the Nautch of India. These last are a caste, the first only a profession.]
21—For thee the bastinado. The bastinado is the common punishment of the East, and an effective and dreaded one. It is administered on the soles of the feet, the instrument a long cane or palm-branch. Public executions are very-rare.]
22—A door of tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl. This elegant mode of inlay is common in Oriental palaces, and may be observed also in Alhambra, at Granada.]
23—A vaulted, circular, and highly embossed roof, of purple, scarlet, and gold. In the very first style of Saracenic architecture. See the Hall of the Ambassadors in Alhambra, and many other chambers in that exquisite creation.]
24—Nubian eunuchs dressed in rich habits of scarlet and gold. Thus the guard of Nubian eunuchs of the present Pacha of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, or rather Caliph, a title which he wishes to assume. They ride upon white horses.]
25—A quadrangular court of roses. So in Alhambra, ‘The Court of Myrtles,’ leading to the Court of Columns, wherein is the famous Fountain of Lions.]
26—An Abyssinian giant. A giant is still a common appendage to an Oriental court even at the present day. See a very amusing story in the picturesque ‘Persian Sketches’ of that famous elchee, Sir John Malcolm.]
27—Surrounded by figures of every rare quadruped. ‘The hall of audience,’ says Gibbon, from Cardonne, speaking of the magnificence of the Saracens of Cordova, ‘was encrusted with gold and pearls, and a great basin in the centre was surrounded with the curious and costly figures of birds and quadrupeds.’-Decline and Fall, vol. x. p. 39.]
28—A tree of gold and silver. ‘Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury was a tree of gold and silver, spreading into eighteen large branches, on which, and on the lesser boughs, sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery effected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony.’-Gibbon, vol. x. p. 38, from Abulfeda, describing the court of the Caliphs of Bagdad in the decline of their power.]
29—Four hundred men led as many white bloodhounds, with collars of gold and rubies. I have somewhere read of an Indian or Persian monarch whose coursing was conducted in this gorgeous style: if I remember right, it was Mahmoud the Gaznevide.]
30—A steed marked on its forehead with a star. The sacred steed of Solorhon.]
31—Instead of water, each basin was replenished with the purest quicksilver. ‘In a lofty pavilion of the gardens, one of those basins and fountains so delightful in a sultry climate, was replenished, not with water, but with the purest quicksilver.’ —Gibbon, vol. x, from Cardonne.]
32-Playing with a rosary of pearls and emeralds. Moslems of rank are never without the rosary, sometimes of amber and rare woods, sometimes of jewels. The most esteemed is of that peculiar substance called Mecca wood.]
33—The diamond hilt of a small poniard. The insignia of a royal female.]
34—You have been at Paris. Paris was known to the Orientals at this time as a city of considerable luxury and importance. The Embassy from Haroun Alraschid to Charlemagne, at an earlier date, is of course recollected.]
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53