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LEW WALLACE

THE WOOING OF MALKATOON

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY DU MOND


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Published in one volume with "Commodus: A Play,"
Harper & Brothers, London and New York, 1898

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-09-27
Produced by Roy Glashan

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"The Wooing of Malkatoon/Commodus,"
Harper & Brothers, London and New York,


TABLE OF CONTENTS


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS




Illustration

Malkatoon.


PROLOGUE. — CHILD MÁHOMMED*

The dance and song, the tales and juggleries,
With which the wise Sultana-mother used
To speed the laggard hours of harem life,
Were good for folk with souls of every day;
But Mahommed would nothing have that did
Not stir his warrior sense. The cymbal's crash,
And trumpet's strident notes, unmixed of plaint
Or melody, could always bid him near
And hold him fast, a wild-eyed listener;
And with his urchin's fist he beat the drum,
And trembled with delight to hear its roll
Invade the silent places of the house,
And die in distant halls. And all day long,
With a heap of stippled ivory cubes,
The gift antique of a forgotten prince
Who erstwhile ruled a land of elephants
Off in the sunrise somewhere, he would build
Tall castle piles, and wall and moat them round,
And when he thought them perfect for defence,
Retire a little space, and with his bow
And arrows shoot them into formless wrecks.
But best of all he loved of afternoons,
When, in the musky-shaded central court,
The ladies of the household met to feast
On spiced meats, and nuts, and snow-cooled draughts,
And exchange trinketries and quips as rich,
And chorus loud the while the slaves before
Them spread what all the merchants from the gates
Without had dared to send them—such the time
The doughty child best loved to dight himself
As Eastern knights for battle bound were wont,
And on the Kislar-Aga's sword for steed,
And yelling shrill, with undissembled rage
And fury burst upon the startled groups,
And send them screaming thence, and, doing so,
Imagine that he did but re-enact
The role of black Antar, who used alone
To sheer ten thousand horsemen of their heads.
Nor were there any of the Iuresome wiles
With children potent since the world began
Enough to lay the martial jealousy
With which he held the court. Nor cared he more
For truce proposed in form by heralds trained,
And leading troops of buglers clad in gold,
And blowing flourishes until the sky
Were like to crack and fall. At length would come
The high Sultana. In her deep reserve
Of mother-love she held the only charm
To calm his mood and raise the well-kept siege.

"The battle's done. My lord must now dismount;
And I will tell him of our Othman bold,
And how he wooed and won his Malkatoon."

And with the saying she would gravely reach
Her hands to him, and he would run to her,
And at her feet throw down his lance and shield;
And haply seated then, his ruddy cheek
Soft pillowed on her twin-orbed, ample breast,
The tale she would unfold.

[* Máhommed, the son of Sultan Murad II., frequently called Amurath. Upon the death of his father, Máhommed succeeded to the Sultanate as Máhommed II., and after the fall of Constantinople surnominally he added The Conqueror to the title.]



Illustration

"And I will tell him of our Othman bold."


I. — EDEBALI THE DERVISH

                             "My lord must know
That in the ancient time, near Eskischeer,
A many-gated town, there dwelt a Sheik,
Edebali by name. A chambered cave
He had for house, and wild vines made his door,
Which was a nesting - place for singing birds.
Two paths, divided by an olive-tree,
Led from the door: one to a spring of cool,
Sweet water bubbling out from moss-grown rocks,
And it was narrow; while the other, broad
And beaten, told of travel to and fro,
And of the world a suitor to the man,
For it is never proud when it has need.
He had been Sheik in fact, but now was more—
A Dervish old and saintly, and so close
To Allah that the Golden Gate of Gifts
Up Heaven's steep did open when he prayed.
Wherefore the sick were brought him for a touch;
And in their crowns his amulets were worn
By kings and queens, and scarce a morning came
Without a message—'In my tent last night
A foal was born to me, and that in truth
It grace its blood, I pray thee send a name
To know it by.' Or, from a knight whose brand
Had failed him, 'Hearken, O Edebali!
Thou knowest by chosen texts to temper swords.
The craftsman hath a new one now in hand,
And in the rough it waits.' And men of high
Degree came often asking this and that
Of Heaven, and the Prophet, and the laws
Of holy life. Nor was there ever one
To go away unanswered, for he knew
The Kur-án, verse and chapter, and to speak
With finger on the line."

II. — OTHMAN AND MALKATOON

                             "And to the cave
Our Othman often went, because he knew
The good man loved him. Once he thither turned
While hawking and athirst, and at the door
Bethought him of the spring. So down the path,
The narrow path, he went, but sudden stopt—
Stopt with the babble of the brook in ear,
And straight forgot his thirst in what he saw.
Below the fountain's lip there was a pool
O'er which a mottled rock of gray and green
Rose high enough to cast the whole in shade;
And in the shade unconscious sate a fair
And slender girl. A yellow earthen jar,
Which she had come to fill for household use,
Stood upright by her, and he saw her face
Above a fallen veil, a gleam of white,
Made whiter by the blackness of the hair
Through which it shone. And she, all childlike, hummed
A wordless tune of sweet monotony,
As in the hushed dowar at dead of night
The Arab women, low-voiced, sing to dull
The grinding of their mills.  And to her knees
Her limbs were bare, and as the eddies brought
The bubbles round she beat them with her foot,
Which glistened mid the splashes like the pink
And snow enamel of a sea-washed shell;
And by the throbbing of his heart he knew
Her beautiful, and turned and walked away,
Himself unseen. And up the path he went,
A stately youth, and tall, and self-contained
As any proven man."

III. — OTHMAN AND EDEBALI

                             "'A quest I bring,
O saintly Dervish!' Thus, when in the cave,
Our Othman spake.

                             "The elder to him turned
His face benignant.

                             "'Is there in the Book*
A saying that would make it sin for me To marry?'

[* The Kur-án.]

                             "'Nay, son, speak thou whole of heart.'

"'Then be it whole of heart,' young Othman said,
'And to thy saintliness.' And stooping low,
He raised the other's hand, and kissed it once,
And then again, and humbly. 'At the brook
But now I saw thy daughter Malkatoon—
Nay, be thou restful!—Drink for soothe of thirst
Was what I sought. Her presence made the place
In holiness a Mosque, and bade me off,
And I ran trembling here. And that which was
Not more than thirst is now a fever grown,
A fever of the soul. And if I may
Not wed her, then it were not well to let
My morning run to dismal noon of life;
Nor shall it. See, now, O Edebali!
Here at thy feet my soul. Save Malkatoon's.
Thou canst not find one whiter.'

                             "And he knelt,
And laid his forehead lowly in the dust;
And at the sight, Edebali made haste,
And both hands helpful raised the suppliant,
Saying, 'O gentle son of Ertoghrul!
What Allah of his love and bounty gives,
That we shall keep, and in the keeping make
Our care of it becoming thanks and praise.
Thou knowest I love thee'—

                             "His farther speech
Was tearful.

                             "'I remember well the day
A woman beautiful, and mine in love
And wifely bonds, and dying of the birth,
Gave me her baby, saying, I have named
It Malkatoon,* and as thou dost by it,
So Allah will by thee. Ah, verily!
The Prophet measureth the very show
Of evil 'gainst the good; and dost thou think
It full enough with Him that I have kept.
The child in bread and happy singing all
The morning through, if now, her noon at hand,
I give her up to certain misery?
A prince art thou, and she but dervish born;
And men will laugh, and with their laughter kill.'


Illustration

"I remember well the day."


"And to and fro he walked, and wrung his hands,
While all the lineless wrinkling on his face
From thought, and fast, and vigils long endured,
The deeper pursed itself; and when he stopt,
It was to say, 'To Allah let us leave
The judgment, prince. Who dares in Him to trust
May always hope. So canst thou hither bring
A pigeon from an eagle's nest escaped
Unruffled, or a lamb that overnight
Hath harmless lain with lions, it will be
As speech to me, and I will do His will.
Knowest thou the Legend on the seal of God?
Our lives are but the wax on which 'tis stamped.
They call it Kismet.'

                             "And with that he drew
His robe, long, loose, and trimmed with yellow
About him close, and left the youth alone
And wonder-struck, but none the less in love
Then down the broad and travel-beaten road
Our Othman, pensive, went to where his train
Of tribesmen waited.

[* Treasure of a woman.]


IV. — OTHMAN AND HIS TRIBESMEN

                             "'Ho, now! Hood the hawks,
And leash the whimpering hounds. The day is done.'
Thus he to them.

                             "They stared, and in his palm
One whispered,'Oh! It is the evil eye.'

"A bolder spake, 'My lord, it is but noon.'

"And yet a third addressed his hunter's love
In strain more cunning, 'Has my lord forgot
The heron in the marsh?'

                             "But he, low-voiced
And patient, answered them, 'Nor hawk, nor hound,
Nor heron more for me, for I have seen
A lily with a star's light in its cup.
'Tis something by the breath of Allah blown
This way from Paradise, I swiftly thought,
And all impulsive would have made it mine
But that a voice forbade; and now I go
To find what never mortal eyes have seen—
A pigeon from an eagle's nest escaped,
Or in a lion's den a lamb alive.
So on my breast the lily I may wear,
And in my heart the star's light.'

                             "Then their eyes
Were hot with dew of tears repressed by awe.
For strangers to the sweet delirium
Which only lovers know, and know to make
The gentle-hearted gentler, and the brave
More covetous as errants in the Land
Of the Impossible, they thought him mad;
And at his feet one wistful flung himself,
With outcry, 'I was born to serve my lord,
And go with him.'

                             "Whereat the others drowned
His voice with theirs united, 'And so were we.'

"But Othman waved them off: 'Bring me my horse.
But yesterday from noon to set of sun
He kept the shadow of the flying hawk
A plaything 'neath his music-making feet.
I will not comrade else.'

                             "Tent born and bred,
The steed was brought, its hoofs like agate bowls,
Its breast a vast and rounded hemisphere,
With lungs to gulf a north wind at a draught.
Under its forelock, copious and soft
As tresses of a woman loosely combed,
He set a kiss, and in its nostrils breathed
An exhalation, saying, to be heard
By all around, ' Antar, now art thou brute
No longer. I have given thee a soul,
Even my own.'

                             "And as he said, it was,
And not miraculously, as the fool
Declares; for midst the other harmonies
By Allah wrought, the hero and his horse
Have always been as one.

                             "And when they saw
Him in the saddle, face and eyes aglow
With the low-burning, splendor-chastened flame
That serves the Angel of the pallid wing
In lighting martyrs on their rueful way,
They closed around him, and of their charms
And priceless amulets despoiled themselves,
And tied them on Antar until his mane
And forelock jangled as with little bells,
And glistened merrily, though all the time
The true men moaned, 'Oh! Oh! What shall we tell
The good Sheik Ertoghrul?'*

                             "And in reply,
He bade them, 'Say that I to-day have learned
The Legend graven on the seal of God,
And that it is a holy law in need
Of holy lives to prove it.'

[* Othman's father.]


V. — OTHMAN IN NO MAN'S LAND

                             "Thereupon
He rode away, clad all in hunter's garb,
And all unarmed, save at his belt a sword,
And at his back a shield—into the East
He rode bareheaded, and under a sky
Thrice plated with molten brass of noon,
Nor once looked back. Into the Wilderness,
The far and purple-curtained distances,
Where Nature holds her everlasting courts,
With beasts of prey and hordes of savage men
To keep their portals, questionless he passed
In leading of his faith.


Illustration

"Othman in No-Man's Land.


	                             "And to a land
Of lions come at last, of all he met,
Even the women at the black-tent doors,
He asked if lately they had lost a lamb?
And where the tawny thunder-makers kept
Their dread abodes? Or if they knew the cliffs
Whence through the many-folded turbaning
Of sun-touched clouds the nesting eagles launched
Themselves upon their prey? For he had heard
From Allah that 'twas beautiful to love
All helpless things, and shield them from their foes,
And therefore was he come.

                             "And all the men
Who heard him laughed; the women, pitying,
Were moved to tears, and gave him of their stores,
And at his going blessed him. And in time
He came to know the trails the maned brutes
Affected most, and lay in wait to see
With what of trophies of their craft they took
Their homeward ways. Or on some barefaced rock,
The sky above him like a stainless blue
Pavilion, prone and patient he would watch
The winged Sultans of the aerial world
As forth they issued screaming to the sun,
Which at the call seemed, comrade-like, to stand
And wait for them. And well he came to know,
When from their forays provident they flew,
The victim in their talons. If a bird,
He whistled to his horse, and followed them
With loosened rein. And where they thought their nests
Securest in their envelopes of cloud
And dizzy height, he thither boldly climbed
And gave them battle.

                             "Thus into a year
The months slow-melting fell, and he became
A hero; so that, went he here or there,
All living things remarked him. Did men see
A troop of eagles circling in the sky
They smiled, and said, 'Our Othman this way comes.'
And mothers, from their midnight slumbers roused
By lions, closer clasped their little ones,
And calmed them, whispering—' Hush! and sleep again!'
For gallop, gallop goes the gray-black steed,
While Allah swings the moon-lamp overhead.
And Othman, strong-armed, rides, and riding cries,
'Be still, O baby-hearts, be still, and sleep,
For I am here.'

                          "And 'gainst the friendly folk
Who loved him so there one day chanced to come
A horde of camel-drivers, skurrying
From parched Oasian orchards in the South.
To them sweet water was of more account
Than blood of women. Then from far and wide
The harried residents to Othman drew
For guidance, and he led them never knight
More truly. And the battle done and won,
In league and gratefully, as warriors should,
They flung the clashing of their steel-bossed shields
Into the upper deeps, with rhythmic stops
For outcry. ' Hear, O Allah!'—thus they said—
' The Wilderness hath travailed, and to-day
A Tribe is born to Thee. Thy palm is large,
And hollowed roomfully, and lined with gifts
For all who couch their asking in the form
Of humble prayer.' Thus Kara* Othman saith;
And, as there is no fervid friend like him
Of helpless things, who—who shall better speak
To us of Thee, or better serve the Tribe,
So in its new birth blind? Then live the Sheik—
Sheik Othman! Live the Tribe!'

* Kara means Black. Othman was so called from his raven beard and hair.


VI. — OTHMAN RENEWS HIS PRAYER FOR MALKATOON

                             "And when the spring,
The second of his love-lorn wandering,
Was pluming all the land, our Othman rose,
And with the chosen of his just-fledged Tribe,
A motley train of wild men, homeward rode,
And coming to the cave where yet the sage
And saintly Dervish dwelt, 'Is it not time,'
He said, full risen from his low salaam,
'That love like mine should have surcease of test?
Behold what it has done!'

                             "And from his breast
He drew a double string of eagle beaks,
Each amber-hued and set with polished gold,
And clear as honey from the comb thrice pressed
Into a crystal cup.

                             "'Thou didst require
Of me a bird—dost thou remember it,
Edebali? It was to be a sign
From Allah, so thou saidst. Nor that alone—
Right well I knew thy purpose by the task
To try my faith, and find if well or ill
The Prophet held me. Wherefore be thou judge.
These were the blades with which the Kings of Air
Were wont to rend the hapless feathered tribes,
And keep their blue domain. Upon their thrones
I slew the monsters. Count them if thou wilt,
And take the trophies, trinkets now to please
A maiden fair. Perhaps young Malkatoon
Will wear them; only when thou comest to put
Them in her hand—which in my dreams I kiss,
The many thousand times I dare not say—
I pray thee tell her how the gift was won,
And fairly speak my name. Then if she smile,
And ask of me, and why I dared such deeds,
And what love is—ah, more than well enough!
As singing birds in hush of summer nights,
Calling their mates through green acacia groves,
Have answer in the self-same melody
Of speech, so she will love me for my love.'

The Dervish stayed his hand. 'It was a bird
I asked of thee, my son—a living bird—
A pigeon—'

                             "'Nay,' said Othman, patiently,
'I have no bird.'

                             "'Oh, then thou hast the lamb?'

"'Nor lamb have I. Yet, saintly though thou art,
Be not in haste, as saying, "All the ways
Are Allah's, and I know them."'

                             "Answering
The sign he made, a servant brought a bale
Of lion skins, and cast it on the floor,
And spread the pelts to view; and they were soft
To eye and touch as rugs of Indian silk,
Yet terrible withal, for each retained
The head with all its armature of teeth,
And bulk of yellow mane, the jaws agape
And snarling.

                             "'These were royal draperies,
Good Dervish, yielded to me but with life.
And when I took them, it was with the thought
That thou, for whom all things, the quick and still
Alike, have tongues, wouldst kindly hear them tell
Of Allah's love for me, and ask not more
Of sign from Him. And scarce less sweet it was
To think that when their tale was haply told,
They might find favor with young Malkatoon;
And should she hear it said the hand that won
The necklace from the eagles was the hand
That spoiled the lions thus, and all for love,
As carpets on her stony chamber floor,
Or dressing for her couch such days and nights
As chilly blow the mountain winds, they might
Well keep me in her mind, and even nurse
A wish to learn yet more of that which drove
Me to the errantry. And now thy hand?—
And graciously, I pray. A crown were reft
Of half its honor did the giver give
It grudgingly. No? Oh, I see! It is
Because these witnesses are in their speech
Uncertain. I have better. Wilt thou go
And hear them?—Only to the door; they wait
Us there.'

                             "And to the vine-clad door they went,
The old man in the leading of the young;
And looking out, lo! cumbering the road,
In the white noon, and plainly not yet used
To bonds of lawfulness, a medley blent
Of lowing cows, and camels malcontent
And overladen, hungry, wolf-like dogs,
And travel-stained sheep, else spotless black,
And horses beautiful enough for kings,
And by their owners far more loved than were
Their youthless wives, mere handmaids of the brutes—
In the noon, lo! the Tribe.

                             "'Came these with thee?'	
The Dervish asked.

                             "And Othman, pleased to mark
His wonder, smiled, and said, 'I am their Sheik.
The Wilderness hath rendered them to me,
And they are Prophets now.'

                             "Then, half in quest
And half in scorn, the elder's brow and hand
Impulsive rose. But Othman meekly bowed,
And answered, patient still, 'Ah me! They were
So true thy words the day I boldly asked
The hand of Malkatoon: "For men will laugh,
And with their laughter kill." In other phrase,
The jesting critics in my father's halls
Would make a plaything of her simple soul,
And drive it weeping back to Paradise,
With none to know how lavishly of charms
And all perfections it was clothed on,
Save thou, and I, and Allah. And the thought
Went with me down into the No Man's Land,
Whither I betook myself companionless,
A question ever present, How to keep
My love the child she is, and harmless save
Her from the courtly brood? At last I had
An answer. You must know the land was wild,
Uncastled, townless, and the people dwelt
Apart as enemies, and ruthless preyed
Upon each other, making mock of love
And Allah; and when I shewed them trust
They laughed at me, and let me go in peace,
A dreaming madman. But in time there came
A hopeful change. By what 'twas wrought I leave
The necklace and yon bale of robes to tell.
Out of the farther South there one day rose
A cloud of war with grim necessities
They knew not of before; and it blew fire
Upon them, and calamities so fierce
They came to me, and in large charity
I yielded to their prayer, and ordered them,
And with them took the field. And as we charged
I shouted Allah! Allah! And they caught
The holy name, and with it swung their swords,
And aimed their lances, all so joyously,
It seemed the blood they shed had turned to wine,
And made them sudden drunk. We won the fight,
And they are Moslem now. Then as I sat
My horse the children and the women came
And kissed his bloody front, and caught my hand
And stirrups, painted with the same red drip,
Proclaiming, Live Sheik Othman! And the men
Made answer, Live Sheik Othman! Then a new,
Exquisite pleasure wrapt me in a glow
Of strange delight, and, looking up, I saw
The moon a crescent in the day-sky's depth,
And by it, lustrous clear, the star assigned
To wait on it, as page upon a queen.
Some childish thought—a wonder if the sun
Were not enough to show the havoc strewn
Along the field—was passing through my mind,
When suddenly the face of Malkatoon
Appeared to me, a fleck of brighter light,
Resilvering the silver of the moon.
I raised my hands as worshippers are wont;
I could not speak, for all my senses swam
In dim confusion; and before I woke
The apparition drew the coarser rays
Of star and planet round it, and was veiled
From sight. And when 'twas gone, I knew myself,
By certain intuition of the soul,
In Allah's care. I knew that Malkatoon
Would be my wife. I knew the warrior-cries
For me as Sheik was Allah making known
What He would have. Wherefore, behold my Tribe—
The Tribe of Othman! Prophets of the State
Which I will build with them! And as thou lovest
His officers, the little and the great,
Look kindly on them, father, for they know
Right well to follow where I dare to lead.
And think'st thou they will laugh at Malkatoon?
Or wound her gentle soul with glance or speech
Unseemly? Nay, good Dervish, say the word,
And here before thy door the Tribe shall pitch
My great black tent and set the wedding - feast,
And hold it on with story, meat, and drink,
And merry joust, until the new year come,
Unless thou sooner say that never bride
Had truer welcome to a truer home.
I ask it—I, Othman—who never prayed
To other man.'

                             "And then the Dervish said,
Slow speaking, 'To my cave there often come
Ambassadors of kings, and yesterday
The high Sultan of ancient Samarkand
Saluted me in person royally,
And in his shower of gifts my feet were hid,
Or had I stept, it would have been on pearls
And precious stones; and yet more welcome thou,
0 son of Ertoghrul, than all of them—
A messenger from Allah with the key
He keeps upon the door above the vault
Where things to come lie hidden' gainst their day—
Take thou salute, and hear, then go thy way.
The wise man reads the name of Allah writ
On everything in Nature—on the stone,
The wasting leaf, the glittering water-drop—
And comes at last to look for prophecy
In all the unaccounted trifles strewn
By chance along the blind-worn paths of life.
These trophies are not voiceless as they seem.
1 listen, and they tell me of the East
By thee again restored and masterful;
I listen, and they tell how turbaned hosts
Devout shall come from every land to light
The ready torches of their faith at thine;
I listen, and from out the upper depths
I hear a voice declare thy name shall be
Forever on the lips of fighting men
A battle-cry, and that in times of peace
Even the winds, unsteady passengers
And lawless though they are, shall take and blow
It up and down the world a melody
Of bugles. Up—up to the storied plains
Of glory thine forewritten 'tis to climb;
And bending ear, and listening wistfully,
I hear the music thence of horns and drums,
And cymbals ringing, and the high acclaims
Of countless men in arms; and if I look,
It is at thee enthroned on battle-fields,
And conquered cities crowding with their keys
On golden plates, and clamorous to buy
Thy better will. And yet, alas! I dare
Not speak the word besought. In truth, it is
Thy destiny I fear. When greatness cloaks
Thee like a tabard more than courtly dight,
What then of Malkatoon? Mayhap, 'twill be
For me, O son of Ertoghrul, to seek
A lion's den or eagle's nest for lamb
Alive or dove unharmed, and fail as thou
Hast failed. A question—one; then peace to thee,
And all of thine. Where doth that holy thing,
A trusting woman's simple love, fare worst?
And I will tell: 'Tis in the heart by years
Of kingly usage into marble turned—
Thou hast my answer.'

                             "And with that he took
The young man's hand in both of his, and held
It tenderly, as loath to let him go
So sadly burdened; then when he had back
His voice, he said, 'The Wilderness hath kept
Itself unlocked, and rendered thee the Tribe
In sacred trust for Allah; whence 'tis thine
To wait on it, and bend its stubborn will
To honor Him. The truest blades are those
Most frequent in the fire, and thus may He
Be chastening thee. Thy faith to this hath been
In purity like pearls in Heaven's gate.
Forget not now that all the times are
His, The morrows and the years, in which to send
The sign I ask.'

                             "He turned, but at the door,
The inner door of heavy camel's-hair,
He left the parting speech. 'A woman dead,
And in her grave, but with a promise had,
May hold a man when even Allah's word
Hath spent its force with him. Now, good my lord,
In going ponder this: The world is old,
And there were loves and lovers ere thou earnest.'
"The daylight, gray along the cavern floor,
Went out on Othman, yet, with upraised face,
He prayed—' O Allah! To a moon's scant breadth
The sky is shrunk; for I am in a well,
And darkness, cold as water, covers me
Still sinking. Amin! Thou didst dig the deeps,
Or else there were no heights; and I will find
Thee at the bottom.'

                              "Then a lightning flashed
Within his mind, that he alone might see
The answer Allah made—A woman dead,
And in her grave, but oh! so beautiful,
And so like Malkatoon! Her hair as dark,
Her face as oval, with a brow as white,
And even in its childishness her form
The very same! And he began to shake
With mighty madnesses of word and act,
Thinking it was indeed his love he saw
There lying lost to him; but he was saved
From them; for it is as the saintly say,
They to whom Heaven kindly sends a light
Not only see but understand as well.
And he was glad, and shouted so the birds
Nest-keeping in the leafage of the door
Affrighted sprang to wing, and Darkness leaped
Into the grave and bore away the ghost—
So loud he cried, 'O Dervish, peace to thee!
And all the charmed sweetnesses of peace
To thine! Be Allah praised, for He but now
Laid bare the narrow room where, as in life,
And wanting only breath to be alive,
The woman sleeps who holds thee promise-bound;
And while I looked at her, I heard thee say
Again, The world is old, and there were loves
And lovers ere I came. And then I knew
Thy meaning. (Ah, never was selfish youth
So gently chidden!) And now, clothed all
In patience, and with my hand in the hand
Of Faith, I go.'"

VII. — OTHMAN AND HIS TRIBE

                             "And home again, from good
Sheik Ertoghrul our Othman had a gift
Of hill-lands rich with groves of terebinth,
And brooks which, flitting down by tangled glades,
And babbling over beds of marble float,
Did often pause in open pools to mock
The skies above with bluer skies below.
And there in one dowar, most like a town
Of many brown-black tents, he drew his Tribe,
That" they might learn how pleasant are the ways
Of peace, and that an hundred spears may gain,
And safely keep, what ten were sure to lose.

"And next he built a Mosque of unhewn stone,
But with a tall and stately minaret;
Then with the help of holy men he taught
His children of the Wilderness the creed—
Allak-il-Allah—simple to the ear,
Yet deep in meaning—deeper than the earth
Hangs swinging 'neath the amethystine floor
Of Paradise. And shortly they could give
The Fah-hat, word and rik-rath, and salute
With hand on brow and breast; then in their midst
He pitched two greater tents.

                             "'For whom are these?'
The tribesmen asked.

                             "'This one is for the poor;
And comes a stranger hungry, or pursued
By night or enemies, it is for him.
This other'—and his voice sank low and shook
With sudden eagerness—' is Malkatoon's.'

"'And who is Malkatoon?'

                             "'A benison
Withheld by Allah until my trial day
Is done—a Spirit out of Paradise—
And this way comes an Angel leading her,
For in the distance I have heard him cry,
Be ready.'"

"Here the high Sultana paused
To closer clasp and kiss the little lord
Upon her breast for pride, and then again
For love o'erbrimming. 'Oh, my Máhommed!
'Tis love that makes the bread and pours the wine,
And is in turn the bread and wine for love.'
The words were dark, and yet, as morning falls
On struggling mist, the look she gave him saved
The meaning of the thought. Then, to the tale
Returning, she, " And so the Tribe was cared
For by the Sheik, with everything of theirs,
The winged and hoofed, the speaking and the dumb;
The dogs had meat, the cattle pasturage;
Even the camels shed their foxen shag,
And ere long rounded into comeliness
Of health and strength. And when at last
There was no charity or duty more
To others owing, he arose, and up
To Allah's gate despatched his patient soul
In ihram white and seamless, there to sit,
And watch and pray the breaking of the sign
The Dervish asked of him.

VIII. — OTHMAN AND THE LORD OF ESKISCHEER

                             "And Othman had
A bosom friend, the Lord of Eskischeer,
Youthful and warm of fancy, like himself;
And him he one day told of Malkatoon,
And of her sire ascetic in the cave
Above the spring; and of the spring he spake,
A wayside comforter of suffering men,
With endless cheer of draught and song and dance,
Lest that way they should pass, and scoffing say,
It is not true that God is everywhere.
And then he told of how he came to see
The wondrous child, and paused to bless the chance—
A favor shaken from the Prophet's sleeve!
And since that hour, he said, the beautiful
Apparent in the other fairest things
Was not for him. Nay, looked he in the sky
At night, the utmost splendor of the stars
Was all a-rust.

                             "'And is she then so fair?'
The listener asked.

                        "'I know not in the world,'
Our Othman said, 'by which to make thee know
How fair she is, surpassing all her kind—
Nothing of perfume to the nostrils sweet,
Nothing lovely to the eye, or to ear,
Nothing of music'

                             "Thereupon they gave
Each other hand, and went their several ways:
Othman, a lover with his love in love,
And doing childish things, as if the air
Were not alive with elves to laugh at him;
Now grumbling to his horse of Malkatoon;
Now whipping quatrains rude and cradleish
Until they sung of her as heroine;
Or when a breeze came stepping o'er the grass,
Lusty with life, and promising to go
A distance, with finger or his sword
Upon the sluggish air he wrote her name,
And bade the breeze, 'Ho! slave of Solomon!
Take thou this writing to my Malkatoon,
Nor say thou canst not find her. In a cave
Scarce two hours hence by measure of my steed
In easy gait, a daughter's part she doth
By old Edebali, the Dervish saint
Well known alike to kings and common men.
Below the cave, and in its shade at noon,
There is a spring, the mother of a pool
Of lucent water. There I saw her first,
And there with equal fortune it may be
That, hasting, thou shalt find her; and if so—
O happy breeze!—be careful not to give
Her fright by any rudeness, but approach
Her gently—gently—would 'twere mine to teach
Thee by example! Fingers of the air
Should have a tender touch; therefore I yield
Thee leave to lift her hair—'tis black as night—
And bare her brow, and blow upon her eyes
A breath not strong enough to more than cool
The dewy lids; or thou mayst fluff her hair,
And with it whip the whiteness of her neck,
So thou disturb her not; for it may be She dreams of me. Begone!'

                             "Thus Othman went,
Never a man so with his love in love.
Far otherwise the Lord of Eskischeer!
The reins hung low upon his courser's neck,
And nigh asleep, it drowsed and drowsed along,
While he, forgetful of his armed heels,
And of his journey, and the mine of things
About him and above, in grim debate,
But silent rode, his mien that of one
Just stumbled upon a wonder of the world
Within him, half a feeling, half a thought,
A fancy formless, faint, a vague desire
At first without an object, and so strange
He could but question it. So on a waste
Of waters from the bursting of a wave
There springs a spray so pale and thin it seems
To mock the searching eye; and so as clouds
That ere long mantle Heaven, and possess
It utterly, are first but pallid mist
Of breaking waves, the small desire became
A passion with the Lord of Eskischeer.
And on a hill-top, looking back, he stopt
At sight of Othman in the vale below,
And shook his hand at him, and said aloud:

"'Thou black-browed son of Islam, go thy way,
For 'tis the fool's, and thou becomest it,
A torch not more the night. Thou not to know
That every sense we have is but a gate,
An airy gate on downy hinges hung,
For Love to come and go! Keep the way; pave
It end to end with fantasies in rhyme,
And dreams of Allah, and Edebali,
And Malkatoon, and, with thy comrade fools,
Chatter and sing, and plague the fainting sky
With beat of drums and flaunt of flags; nor leave
Behind the combings of the Wilderness
Thou callest thy Tribe. And I will to the cave;
And should the Dervish give the girl to me,
Vex not the sun or moon or tender stars
With antics of a child. I had not loved
Her but for thee.'

                             "Then to the cave he sped
With might of galloping.

                             "A thousand knights
In gold-gilt steel, and girt with belts of gold,
And trebly proud of azure blades, new moons
In curvature, and casting brightness far
As stars ablaze in cold Caucasian skies,
Held all the space about the beaten road
Uptrending to the leafy door; their tents
Enwhitened linen circling one of silk
Capacious as a field, and dyed in green
And purple, graceful as a peacock's neck,
And full as iridescent; and the air
Above the camp was glorified with flags
And bannerets, one richer than the rest,
And heavy with symbolic broidery,
Bespeaking old Iran. Yet, passion-mad,
The Lord of Eskischeer thrust through the maze
Of martial splendor.

IX. — EDEBALI AND THE LORD OF ESKISCHEER

                             "'Art thou he men call
Edebali the Dervish?'

                             "'I am he,'
The sage replied.

                             "'Thou hast a maid of age
To marry, and indeed they call her good
And beautiful.'

                             "The Dervish knit his brows
Till in the sudden gloom his eyes became
Like blossom coals of fire.

                             "'Now, who art thou?'
He asked.

                             "'I am thy neighbor—Eskischeer,
My castle, turreting upon a hill
Of wide espial, and a town with gates
Many as thou hast fingers on thy hands.
My hall hath space to dine five hundred guests,
And bring they horses, each may have a stall.
And for this cave I offer her a roof,
And safety well assured by mangonels,
And arbalists, and cranes, and bows of steel,
And trained men breastplated, and myself,
By no means least of them.'

                             "The Dervish put
A bit upon his soul.

                             "'But thou art Greek,
While she was born the daughter of a Tribe.'

"'She shall forget the Tribe.'

                             "'Can we forget
So easily, my lord?'

                             "'A woman can.'

"'Then what of holy Faith? Thou holdest Christ,
While she—'

                             "'Nay, Dervish, jesters I have known,
But never one with face so gray as thine.
Or if thou must amuse thyself with me,
Be it, I pray, with something serious—
A ribbon, bright or dull, which I can skein
About my finger, or a flower of spring,
Which stales at noon of plucking in the morn—
For they are solid things compared with faith
In women.'

                             "Then the Dervish meekly said,
His soul in curbing yet, 'In Paradise,
O good my lord, when all was dewy fresh
And garden-like, the Maker—be His name
A prayer forever!—with the first man walked
Familiarly, and from a mountain bade
Him view the world, and asked, " How seemeth it?"
And the man, then of nature firmly fixed,
Took time to answer. "Lord," at length he said,
"I see a wondrous glistering below
The daisies and the grass."

                             "'The Maker's brow
Lost half its halo, and in the falling robbed
The wide-spread scene of more than half its light;
But with His awful glance askant, He said,
"The first is gold; the next thou seest is white,
And it is silver."

                             "'And the man's eyes flashed
With covetous delight. "And are they mine?"
He asked, in heedlessness of selfish greed.
"'And slowly he had answer: "They are thine;
I made them, and the world, and everything
In sight beneath the welkin's bending arch
For thee and thine."

                             "'And still the creature stood
Fast-holden by the glisters visible
Below the daisies. Then the Lord was stirred
With jealousy. "Thou fool"" and down the height
The deep voice rolled, and smote the smiling vales,
And shook them as with thunder. "Turnest thou
From Me to them so soon?"

                             "'And then the man,
Remorseful, washed his face in dust, and cried,
"I will not other God than Thee—I swear!"

"'"I thought to win thy faith"—thus spake the Lord;
"Thou hast not other pledge to give for love ^
And worship."

                             "But the wretch's grovelling,
And tears, and prayers, and promises prevailed
Upon the Maker. "Ask Me not to trust
Thee ever. Yet"—and in the pause His voice
From fiercest chiding passed to tenderness—
"The earth shall praise Me for its loveliness;
And that it have a tongue in lieu of thine,
O ingrate! I upon thy throne will seat

A woman to divide the power with thee,
And in her being, in the galleries
Of her heart, I will hang my lamps of faith,
And keep them burning. Or should Darkness blow
Them out, all this so passing fair to sight,
The beauty and perfections, and the gold
And silver thou hast taken for thy gods,
Shall crumble, and to nothingness return.
Amin!"'
      
                             "With that the Dervish, all uprist,
And towering, in the instant flung his mask
Of meekness off. 'Reviler thou of God
And woman! Get thee hence,' he said, 'and try
Repentance. Though in riches thou surpass
Kàroon,* my Malkatoon 'gainst thee shall bide
In sweet reserve, a pledge of love and peace
From Allah.'

                             "And he gave the Greek his back,
And left him dumb-struck.

[* The story of Kàroon is given in the Kur-án. He is represented as the most beautiful of the Israelites who went out with Moses: and "Rich as Kàroon" became a proverb.]


X. — THE LORD OF ESKISCHEER IN QUEST OF OTHMAN

                             "Then when brooding night
Was fallen, and the air so drenched with rain
Of darkness that a mousing fox had lost
His homeward way, Edebali forsook
The friendly cavern, and with Malkatoon,
And all his houseling and priceless store
Of gifts and honors, fled to Ertoghrul,
The thousand Persian knights in snowy tents
Encamped before his door at set of sun
Escorting him. The famous Sheik received
The saintly guest with rites by custom long
Prescribed, and in an ample plane-tree grove
He pitched for him a tent but lately loomed
Of clippings from his brown-black flock, more worth
Indeed than royal robes. 'Dervish'—thus the Sheik,
While making offer of the leben-draught
In shadow of the woven door—'a cup
Of welcome! Drink, and dread naught.'

                             "Homeward rode
The Lord of Eskischeer to nurse his hate
Of Othman. Fifty lances, with their steeds
Accoutred, kept he bedded in the stalls
Beneath his banquet-hall; while through the nights
The iron baskets of the linkmen flamed,
And filled the portal's hollow arch with light,
So if now or then a courier came
Fast riding, and with news, 'To saddle, all!
Sheik Othman is abroad!' one bugle note
Would mount the troop, and down the bridge would go,
And flying hoofs in tumult pass the moat,
Rolling and rumbling drumlike, but with thrice
The thunder.

                             "Chance as often favors wrong

As right. Another dweller in a house
Well castellated—Iname by name—
To Othman sent a message: 'Come, I pray,
And be my guest!' And so it came to pass
That Othman and his brother, Goundonloup,
Were two of many friends, from near and far,
Assembled by the Lord of Inaene
To test his cheer and hospitality.
And wine and meat within the walls were free
As sun and air without, and every mood
And habit had its pastime day and night—
Chess for the old, and for the robust games
With coloring of royal war.

                             "One day
The sport swelled loud at table—loud the jest,
And louder yet the laugh—when from the gate
A guard appeared. 'My lord, a company
Of strangers stand before the barbican.
The chief invites the Lord of Insene
To parley there.' 'The chief? Gave he his name?'
'He called himself a friend, and gave his name.
The Lord of Eskischeer. And with him ride
A soldier, Michael of the Peaked Beard,
And fifty pennoned lances.' The host arose.
'I know this errant lord, a man of note
And courtesy. Come, let us to the gate.'
And they arose, Othman and Goundonloup,
And all the noble guests in festal garbs,
And went with him; and on the battlement
Above the barbican, secure behind
The massive merlons, they stood and heard
The parley. And the Lord of Inaene
Was first to speak. 'Lo, here am I,' he said.
Then he of Eskischeer: ' Take thou salute,
And since in blood and faith thou art a Greek,
I bring thee chance to prove how much thou lov'st
The Virgin Mother, and her Sinless Son,
The Only Resurrected. Unaware
Thou dost high Christian honors render one
Who Pagan prophets proudly say was born
To undo Christ and Holy Church, and give
The East, and all of us, and all we have,
To Islam.'

                             "Then the Lord of Inaene,
In wrath and 'mazement, 'Take thee hence, or name
The monster!' And the guests, their voices shrill
With passion—' Name him! Name him!' And the Lord
Of Eskischeer—'There!—see him at thy side—
Sheik Othman!—If a Sheik can be whose Tribe
Hath life from camel-eaters, altar-thieves,
And overflow of spawn from hatcheries
A-fester in the desert. I demand
Him of thee, and to scruple now were sin.
God-service his who cuts him off betimes.
Make haste, my lord.'

                             "Then every eye was turned
To Othman, and he asked, 'My fellow-guests,
What faith have ye in trials by the sword?'
And they returned, 'The faith we have in God.'
To which he, smiling, as if more than pleased,
'So think I.' Then with changed voice and brow,
And sternly, to the host—'Six tribesmen brought
I hither, newly mailed and horsed, and they,
And I, and this my brother—eight in all—
Will ride against the Lord of Eskischeer
And caitiff Michael of the Peaked Beard.'

"The noble company, though belted knights,
And often battle-tried, recast their looks,
Each mutely measuring the deed proposed
By other deeds in song and story long
Adjudged heroic; and in the while, a breath's
Brief space, from out a sea within their breasts,
Unknown to them, a wave of tenderness
Arose and thrilled them all—so young he seemed,
And in his high resolve so beautiful!
And into words they ran: 'It shall not be
If thou art lost, then is my honor lost,'
Thus the host; and another, 'Stay, and count
Their lances—fifty trained and merciless!'
But Othman answered, 'What have we to fear,
Who ride with Truth and Right?' And to his host
Again, and cheerily—'The parley keep
While we to horse, and when below thou seest
Me signal with my hand, then let there be
No toying at the gate, but fling it wide—
Both valves at once—and leave us to our swords,
And Allah.'

XI. — THE COMBAT

                             "Variant and loud and hot
The wordy strife the Lord of Inaene
Provoked and waged with him of Eskischeer;
As when two winds in mimicry of war
'Counter each other swirling round a house
Of many angles. Then, all eagerly,
That they might hear, the hirelings in the road
To shoulder swung their shields, and careless brake
Their fine array. And presently the gate
Opening moved—slowly first—noiselessly—
And then the hinges shrieked as if a ghost
In pain were giving up, and on the right
And left clang!—clang!—the sturdy, steel-bossed valves
Rolled swiftly back, uncurtaining an arch,
Shallow and tunnel-like, through which a glare
Of daylight from the thither side, snow-white
And blinding, smote the startled leaguerers.
Then, ere a man of them could frame a thought,
Or whisper of the treachery he feared,
They heard a cry, 'Take, all, the stirrup now,
And follow me!' And in the voice there was
The ring and searching quality of calls
By trumpet wildly blown, which, when they find
A spirit, seem to say, 'Oh-ho! Awake!
For here is bloom of glory roseate,
And thine the gathering!'

                             "And wider grew
The stare of those in hire beneath the wall, 
When through the gateway burst the beat of hoofs 
Rumbling the earth as 'twere a slackened drum 
By drunken drummers beaten. Motionless, 
Their senses in a listless pause, they stared, 
And waited what might come. So, when a cloud 
Low overhead has clapped its mighty hands, 
And, bidden halt, the startled traveller stands, 
And bates his heart and breath, unknowing where, 
If deadly bolt there be, the bolt may strike. 
And then the meaning brake!

                             "Into a court,
House-bound and narrow, but aglow with light, 
A horse appeared outstretched, and leaping long, 
Its head low borne, its nostrils flashing red, 
And straight upon the riven air back streamed 
Its forelock, black, and plentiful, and long, 
In freedom flying with the flying mane;
And on toward the open gate it ran, 
Ringing the roughhewn flagging underfoot 
As with their hammers anxious swordsmiths ring 
The bladed steel fast chilling in the tongs. 
And when the rider, all in linked mail, 
And of the steed a part—so easily 
He kept his seat—beheld the enemy, 
He dropt the bridle-rein, and raised his shield 
And scimitar full arm's-length up, and prayed, 
'Shadow me now, O Allah!' Then to those 
Behind him following close—Goundonloup 
And the six tribesmen—half he turned his face, 
And shouted,'On, O brethren! This the way 
To Paradise! Forward, and strike, and cry 
"Allah, O Allah!"' Then frontward he set 
His face all radiant with battle-light, 
And shouting 'Allah! Allah!' as he bade 
His men, into the vaulted gate he plunged, 
And the great stones above him and below 
Shook as he passed.

                             "And then a terror struck
The leaguerers, and every bridle-hand 
'Gan tugging at the reins in selfish haste 
To get away; whereat the guests in perch 
Between the merlons, looking down at them, 
Brake into gibes and laughter, and the host 
Cried out, 'Oh-ho, my Lord of Eskischeer!
That infidel and traitor to the Truth
Ye asked of me—the Sheik without a Tribe—
Is coming—nay, is here!'

                             "And at the word,
As if it were some cabalistic sign,
Out of the hollow arch, then darkening
With turbaned friends fast trooping at his heels,
Blatant and eager—out into the hard
And trodden space before the portal front,
Our Othman rode. One buffet with his shield,
And Michael of the Peaked Beard went down,
Not slain, but sorely hurt, and tasting dust
In bloody mouthfuls, and all his wits awing,
As in some placid evening sky at play
With swallows.

                             "Then the end rushed in apace.
From Michael to the Lord of Eskischeer 
Sheik Othman wheeled Antar, and in the two, 
The horse and man, there was so much of force, 
So much of all a victim sees and hears 
To stop the beating of his baser heart 
What time the lion makes his flying leap, 
The Greek turned sick with fear, and, borrowing 
From panic, flung about, and fled amain. 
And on his back, unwrit, yet plain as moon 
In freshness burst above a scumbled hill,
The word that sent his hirelings down the road 
They came, a scuffling, dizzened mass in blind 
And headlong flight for life. Wherewith it seemed 
The guests went mad with very ecstasy, 
And merry-making set the stones they stood 
Upon astir with laughter. But the voice 
Of Othman through the din shore sharp and high, 
'The rakhem* ruffling yonder—take thou these, 
The sword-hands of my choice, and follow them; 
The craven lord, their master, leave to me,' 
Thus he to Goundonloup.

[* Vultures.]

                             "There was a path 
By usage long and wearing won from sward 
And broken place, and, like a rusted belt 
Around a woman's waist, it girt the wall, 
The blackened gate in lieu of silvern clasp—
A narrow way, and sinuous, and sown 
With flinty fragments sharp and dangerous, 
And never traversed save by sandaled men, 
And kine, slow-footed, watchful—such the road 
The Lord of Eskischeer in panic took, 
And now was spurring down. And seeing him, 
Again Sheik Othman in his stirrups rose, 
And lifting sword and shield and shining face, 
'Shadow me now, O Allah!' thus he prayed. 
And bending low along his courser's neck,
As spirit unto spirit speaking, said, 
'Antar! Antar! O king of running kings! 
Forget not now the soul thou hadst from me 
The day we journeyed down to No Man's Land. 
Forget not now the many other days 
We gave to hunting lions, and in chase 
Of eagles. Here, ignobler work—a wolf, 
Only a wolf—but ours no less to give 
The world a long, sweet rest by making end 
Of him. So now, take thou the reins, and go 
In freedom. Only bring me to his side, 
And hold me there a time to strike a blow 
For Malkatoon and holy love; and she 
Shall feed thee from the palm-cup of her hands, 
And comb thy mane, and braid thy forelock ply 
And ply with night-black tresses of her own. 
To thy wings, O Antar!'

                             "The reins dropt loose;
Then as a hound unleashed and bidden go 
Leaps whimpering up with eyes afire to see 
The game, and take direction from its flight, 
So from a gallop, kept that it might hear 
The master's promises—or so it seemed—
The willing courser tossed its shapely head 
On high—a moment thus—then off it sped 
In quickening leaps, of lions none so strong, 
Of eagles none more swift; yet scarce less strong,

                             "Othman in his stirrups rose
And swift, and sure of foot the steed that bore
The craven Greek. Two boles of furbished steel,
In passage trailing light, like moving flames—
Such the men. Ledge-rocks wrenched from cloudy height,
And plunging down a graded mountain-side
In rivalry of ruin—such the steeds;
One bearing Love, and all its urgencies,
The other scourged by Fear, gray-faced and blind.
And answering the calls by Rumor passed
From court to hall and kitchen, noisily
And fast the castle poured its tenantry
Upon the wall, and from the vantage-points—
Embrasure, mullioned-port, and hanging-tower—
They viewed the race, in silent wonder first,
And then with gusts of clamor.


Illustration

"Othman in his stirrups rose."


                             "And thus once
Around and to the gate again! And scant
The time allowed the guests still waiting there
To speed their friend; for past the yawning arch,
And over Michael, writhing where he fell,
His senses yet abroad—on unseeing,
And hearing nothing save the steady roll
Of hoofs behind him—on into the path
The very same but then so hotly come,
The Lord of Eskischeer went thundering,
His shield-arm nerveless as an empty sleeve,
His sword forgotten. Like a flash he passed,
And then another flash, and Othman passed, 
And still the reins hung loose, and still he talked 
As to a boon companion. 'Not so fast, 
O brave Antar!—I see his rowels drip—
And as our enemies the eagles used 
When they would see if Jinn of Solomon's 
It was pursuing them, a little stay 
Thy wings, and hover—hover! There—now hold 
The flight at that until I bid thee swoop—
And doubt her not—doubt not that she will feed 
Thee with her dainty hands, and comb thy mane, 
And braid thy forelock. Never amulet 
Of pearl in lucent bar from Persian sea 
Thrice laid upon the Kaabah's sacred stone 
So blessed and blessing as a tress of hers!' 
And then there was a yellow cloud of dust, 
And withered grass, and leaves, and blasted shreds 
Of rue from out the wrinkles of the wall, 
Awhirl and breaking into lesser clouds, 
And thence a muffled pounding of the earth 
In rapid strokes, as if an hundred hands 
Were breaking sheaves of corn with iron flails; 
And so from view of those above the gate 
The racers vanished.

                             "On, nathless, they went—
On over levels, meagre, green, and scant— 
On into shallow brookways then but beds
Of rattling shingles—on—and as they went
The air they tore through sounded in their ears
Like wanton winds in revelry with waves;
And all the shouts dropt ringing from the wall,
The taunting and the laughter, mixed with cheers,
Passed them unheard. But coming presently
To a long, upward slant of hardened road,
Bent sharply round an angle turreted
And next the gate, our Othman woke to life.
'I saw the quarry stagger—there—again!
The time is come! Drink now thy fill of air,
Antar, and, by thy Nejdee blood, set on,
And prove thyself!' And crying thus, he snatched
And shook the reins, and as a swimmer breasts
A foaming current, leant against the breeze.
No more of waiting! Forward—forward sprang
The gray-black king of coursers, free and fresh,
The morning's vigor in his lissome limbs,
And in his spacious breast a hero's heart;
And this the prayer he heard at every leap:
'Speed, speed, O gallant friend! For Prophet's grace,
And holy love, and honor, and the Tribe;
Stumble not now, nor tire.'

                             "Nor vain the prayer!
There where the road, its gentle rise complete, 
Around the castle's corner wound itself 
In broadened loop, returning to the gate,
Sheik Othman had his wish, and by a thrust 
Half given he could have reached his foeman's back, 
And that way set his swooning spirit free. 
But all his scorn of doubtful ruse and mean 
Advantage rose betime. ' Show me thy front, 
And up with shield!' So bugle-clear his voice, 
And loud, they heard it on the turret's top; 
Yet, save to deeper stab his failing barb 
And closer cringe, the Lord of Eskischeer 
Rode signless on. Then once, and silently, 
Above the Nejdee's neck our Othman shook 
The flying reins. A leap, and flank and flank, 
Stirrup 'gainst stirrup, on the straining steeds 
Like shallops lashed in waters rough and swift, 
Together drave. 'That thou, O craven Greek! 
So much the lower of thy high degree, 
Didst dream or think of loving Malkatoon, 
Or fancy Heaven had bred such rose to waste 
Its perfume on thy breast, were scarlet shame 
To innocence.' Thus Othman, speaking low; 
And then aloud, and near the gate,
'Awake! It is for life, if not for love. Thy sword 
Is there, and here thy shield, and under eyes 
We come.' Moved then the wretch's bloodless lips, 
'For the dear Christ'—he stopt. And in upon 
The naked space before the gate they burst 
With beat and gride, and on the battlement 
There was nor laugh nor cheer; for overhead
The sword of Othman fashioned coils of flame, 
And hissed like angry serpents. And he said, 
'False friend and coward—liar—this the fate 
The sinless Christ reserves for all thy kind! 
Amin!' A shriek responsive to the blade 
In practised stroke—a clang of shield and sword, 
And steel in loosened links—a lifeless bulk 
Full length in dust—these held the guests in awe 
And speechless, while the courser of the Greek 
Ran on alone.

                             "Then Othman stayed to say,
'My Lord of Inaene, I pray thou have
A care of this one, Michael; he is hurt,
Not dead. I will return.' With that, he rode
Off after Goundonloup; and together,
As tireless huntsmen follow skulking wolves,
Up to the very bridge of Eskischeer
The eight their harry of the hirelings kept.
And loud the greeting when to Inaene
The victors drave the harvest of the fray—
Well harnessed horses, lances, swords, and shields
Enriched with many strange devices done
In gold and staring pigment, spurs of gold,
And armor silver-gilt. And of it all
The host with deftest art made pyramids,
And sheaves, and radiates, and glorified
The banquet hall."

                             "And here, as was her wont,
The fair Sultana-mother, wise and good 
As she was fair, allowed herself to rest 
The brave recital, and observe the child, 
And wonder at his wonder; then, her arms 
About him, and with kiss, she pledged the world 
Another Othman, and in softer tone 
Renewed the tale.

XII. — OTHMAN AND ISLAM

                             "It seemed then that all
The things of farthest flight, the birds and winds,
The mornings, and the weird Invisibles
Of Night which, as Voices, direct the winds
In ministry to men by Allah loved,
Made minstrels of themselves, and went about
Through Islam, even to its border-lands,
Singing of Othman and his victory;
And there was never fame so sudden won,
Or name so easy on the trumpet's lip.
And he was great, and—to the common heart
No sweet its like in life—his greatness came
To him in youth, when fronds of green enwreathed
Become a brow as light becomes a star.
It is the homage of his fellow-men,
And not the crown, that makes a real king.
And such was Othman; yet a lover more
Than king was he.

                             "Then in the prime of spring, 
The third since Othman saw his Malkatoon,
A gentle child with fluffy night-black hair,
And brow and breast of sun-illumined snow,
And seeming of the bubbling runlet born,
Back to the cave the saintly Dervish went
Without an enemy to give him fear,
Or break his thought on holy things intent.
And thither Othman often followed him;
At times sky-blind from overwatch of hawk
And heron heavenward in the blue blaze
Of hottest noon; at other times to pace
The cavern floor, and bear the elder's hand
Upon his shoulder, listening while he talked
Familiarly of Allah, and His laws,
And what might be if men but heeded them;
And always, sooth to say, it was a hope,
Or flutter of a wish almost a hope,
Which lured him to the good man's vine-clad door,
That something haply come, though but a dream,
Or nightly incident of fateful stars,
Would erewhile close the dreary trial term
Imposed on him. And many times there were
In which he overstayed the shortening day;
And then the sage and reverend host would roll
A bale of lion skins upon the floor
For couch, and smile, and say good-night, and leave
Him pillowed in the Prophet's nursing hands.

"One summer night—'twas in the red-moon month
Of nightingales, and sweetest rivalry
Of rose and jasmine—Othman, all belate,
Upon the couch of trophies stretched his limbs;
And over him Edebali had said
The parting speech wherewith the day is done,
And sleep invited in, when Othman caught
The sage's robe, and held it by the hem,
And in the tone a weary santon begs
The rich for dole to help him on his way,
Besought him,' Stay, and tell me—thou who hast
The recollections of its joys to soothe
The pangs of love in loss—thou who canst tell—
No other can—ah, when—when is this dure
Of winter on my love to pass?'

                             "The look
The Dervish gave the eager supplicant 
Was wavering and cloudy; yet he could 
But stay and hear.

                             "'Here, father, are thy beads,'
Thus Othman further. 'See how dull and blurred 
The ambers are from counting! And the cord 
Of sacred green which holds them to thy belt—
The gray Scherif of Mecca blessed it thrice, 
Then sent it thee from holy Arafat—
How worn and thin it is, and like to break! 
O Dervish, pity me! As is the cord,
My hope is wearing out, and like the beads,
My days and hours. Ah, when shall I have done
With counting them?'

                             "And lower, lower drooped
The listener's cowled head, and not from age 
Or wing of spirit noiseless in the air 
The tremor of the taper in his hand. 
And Othman hurried.

                             "It was in the spring
I asked for Malkatoon. Before your door 
The birds were making nests, and easing toil 
With blithesome songs; yet thrice since then the world 
Has summered—thrice, and never word or sign 
From her to me. Was ever honest love 
So starved as mine has been? A little speech—
Good-morning, or, May Allah comfort thee—
Enough to tell me I was known to her 
As friend to friend, and that she wished me well, 
My soul had magnified into a song 
As soaring and divine as Genii sing 
To Israfil across the bridgeless voids. 
Stoop lower, Dervish—stoop, and take my hand, 
And tell me—thou whose wisdom is a gift 
By gracious Heaven—tell me how my love 
Has lived through all the going of the years 
Without caressment, smile, or glance of eyes
Awake and shooting flatteries as stars 
Shoot radiance—without the pleasant sting 
Of rosy fingers softly laid in palm 
Outstretched—without the music of a voice 
In promises of deeper soothe than sleep 
Or any drug. O Dervish, wanting these, 
The daily bread and spiced luxuries 
Of common passion, why should not my love 
Have died of cold neglect, and been erased 
From memory, if not itself the sign 
Of Allah's favor you so long have asked 
Of me? Yet here it is—at thy feet laid 
Low again.'

                             "Still the Dervish held his peace.

"'Art thou afraid? Or'—Othman's voice sank down 
And trembled plaintively—'Or didst thou think 
My love a childish whim to change or go 
With cunning play of truce? There have been times I 
stopt the vagrant winds that seemed in flight 
To where she lay, and charged them, Take her this 
Or that—some airy frill of loving thought 
Uprisen from the moment's wish like spume 
From gushing wine; and still, so weak the years 
To reave the passion of its early pulse, 
To-day while coming here I heard the hist 
And whisper of a breeze which might have been
From her to me, and straight, as king to slave, 
I bade it, Stay, and give me that she sent 
By thee, and as 'twas rudely malcontent, 
I slave-like prayed it, Be thou merciful, 
And tell me if ye heard her speak my name, 
And sigh when speaking it, as if she longed 
To have me near her.'

                             "Then Othman closer drew
The good man's hand, and said with urgent look,
And voice impatient, ' There was one who spake
Of mighty deeds reserved for me to do,
And long and far his walk had been in thought
Of life and death, and what must come to pass
For sake of peace 'mongst men, and I believed
In him, and did the things he bade me do,
Nor gave a care to what was said of me;
And of my faith in him there grew a hope
Which should have been my steadfast law of life.
And of that hope—how often I have laid
My sword across my knees, and in its depth
Of blue reflection, limpid as the sky
Above me, seen the glory of the East
From out its wane emerge, and heard my name
Go down the winds a lasting melody
Of bugles. Prophet—say, dost thou recall
The lordly words? Yet marvellous and true,
That hope is not at all, or if it lives,
'Tis as an echo, lifeless of itself. 
A dream arose, and blew its splendors out, 
And left it hiding placeless in the dark, 
A servant bounden to the dream.'

                             "Thereat
The taper waved, and outbrake all the face 
Of him who held it, reddening in the light. 
'What is the dream?' he asked.

                             "Then Othman's face
To scarlet turned, and, 'neath the searching eye,
Flamed like a poppy blooming in a field
Of yellow corn. 'I pray thee, turn thy gaze,
And waste its burning in the darkness there;
For that thou seekest I am moved to give,'
Thus he with purest modesty. 'For grace
I called it dream yet asks it naught from night,
Or sleep, or waking reverie of day;
And if it goes, it comes again the same
In kind and radiance. 'Tis not a dream,
But living thought by sweetest fancies fired,
And always forward-flying to the hour,
The happy hour, when I can go alone
To Malkatoon, and raise her bridal veil,
And kiss the maiden blushes from her brow
And childish cheeks. O Dervish—by thy beard,
And Allah lending ear!—that joyous time
Were more to me than any fame of sword 
Or deftest rhyme.'

                             "In lowlands, after rain
Has washed the copse and of the earth made reek, 
And mists of fleecy whiteness rise in clouds, 
And through the tangle slowly drive like sheep 
Unshorn and browsing, one looks up and sees 
The stars in dewy faintness shimmering, 
As if they were aswim in ruffled light; 
So to the young man shone the elder's eyes, 
Tremulous in their fixedness, and dim 
With tears half-risen. Then the elder knelt 
Upon the shaggy couch, and put an arm 
About the younger's neck, and in the dale 
Between the brows he kissed him twice, and said, 
With struggling voice,' Commend thyself to Him, 
The Merciful and most Compassionate, 
And sleep forgetful of the world and life; 
And if thou hast a dream, on waking call 
Me, mindless of the hour, and I will come 
To thee.' Therewith he left another kiss, 
And rising, round him drew his robe of fur, 
And disappeared.

                             "And later, when the clock 
Of planets in the spacious heavens marked 
A moment early in the afternoon


Of night, the chambers of the cavern rang
With loud alarms: 'Awake—Edebali—
Awake, and come to me!' And presently,
With taper lit, and robed, his face aglow
With sharp expectancy, the holy man
Upon the pallet sate himself in front
Of Othman. 'Thou hast dreamed a dream,'
So simply he invited confidence.
And Othman,' Nay, a Vision came to me—
It was a Vision, Dervish.' 'Be thy care
Never so awful!' Thus, with caution large,
The elder spake. 'And know, my son, how broad
And grave the difference. Our dreams we have
From Angels—seven good, and seven bad;
And as the Angels, so the dreams they bring.
But Visions are from Allah, and He keeps
Them for His prophets, and for other men
A little lower, and already passed
Within the saving circle of His love
And mercy—Now I will not break thy thread
Of speech again.'

XIII. — OTHMAN HAS A VISION

                             "And Othman took the sign,
And slowly said,' Upon this rugged couch,
O Dervish, I was lying by thy side,
And sleep was on us both. And in the drown
Of senses, dim and purple-sweet, there came
A sexless Genius, winged, and all unclad,
Except with starlight streaming from its brow.
And standing by me tall as any palm,
And whiter than a marble minaret,
It shot delicious waking from its touch.
"Soul of this man," it said, "attend." And straight
My soul had eyes and ears beyond the strength
Of mortals.


Illustration

Othman has a vision.


                             "'"Look now!" and I could but look.
And the gray vestments on thy breast began 
To stir and break, and forth appeared a moon 
Full orbed, and with a rich enamelling 
That made its light a lustrous pleasantry. 
And over us it hung in far suspense; 
Then like a feathered atom in a lake
Of crystal air, so lightly down it sunk,
And in my bosom vanished. Then in sway
Of mute perplexity my spirit stood,
And to the Genius turned; whereat it smiled,
And said, " The moon is fairer than a star,
And so is Malkatoon. But look again!"
And fain I looked, and saw a seminal
Of brightest velvet-green begin to rise,
There where the moon went down. And kneeling low,
The Genius breathed upon the tender spray,
And joined its palms above it, and arose,
And the plant, still in hover of the palms,
And rising with them, grew to be a shrub,
And then a tree; wherewith the Genius left
It to itself. But staying not, it reached
Its branches out, and covered us with shade;
And still outspreading, soon in need of rest,
It leaned its mighty arms on Caucasus,
And Haemus, Atlas, Taurus, brethren all
From eld unspeakable. Nor did it stop
When hoarsely bidden by the restless seas,
Or spare the upper cloudways of the sky;
And everywhere that horizons had been,
And raised their baseless walls, and overhung
Them with deceptive veils of frailest blue
And purple, there was naught but foliage
And oaken glory. And then miracle
On miracle! The Genius did but lift
Its open hand, and speak some simple word,
Lo this or that! and fast the marvels came,
As they were hawks, and it their falconer—
Scarce faster break the ocean's turquoise waves
At beckon of the wind upon the beach.
In air I heard a whir of beating wings,
And looking, lo! the tree was filled with birds,
And butterflies besprent the living sod.
I heard a thunder of the quaking earth,
As if the sea had found its hollow heart,
And looking, lo! the granite rocks beneath
The sacred tree were rent, and forth the Nile
Upburst, and after it the Euphrates,
The Tigris, and the Danube, and when each
Of them had won its way apart and down
The wrinkled world, a holy calm befell.
And while I wondering looked, the Genius spake,
" This is the hour by men to Allah given.
Why stand'st thou there?" And to my knees I sank,
Thence on my face, and from the dust my lips
Sang worshipfully, God alone is great—
There is no God but God! And with the last
Refrain the Genius smiled, and waved its hand;
Thereat the realms in umbrage of the tree,
Now more a gilding splendor than a shade,
Unrolled before me to the farthest marge.
And on the mountain sides I saw the flocks
To fatness feeding; on the seas, I saw

The galleys ride the jealous dolphins down,
And flash their dripping oars in merriment
I saw the hills put on their castle-crowns,
And in the plains, and by the littorals,
The crowded cities hold their courtly fairs,
And royal-wise, like queens in vanity
Of state, make high display of obelisk
And pyramid, and humbler towers and mosques
In princely fusion blent. And on my knees,
And near afaint, I heard the Genius say,
"Lo, this last—Look up!" And I could but look.
And all the singing birds grew still as death,
Then took to wing; and hardly were they gone,
When every leaf alive upon the tree
Became a curved and flashing scimitar;
And swinging pendulous and free, each rang
The other, so it seemed to me the whole
Vast overarch of air and sky became
A golden bell confused by silver tongues
Innumerable. And while thus the land
Was music-swept as by a throbbing tide,
An angry wind from out the Orient
Rushed at the sounding cone of flaming blades,
And in a twinkling every point was turned
In one direction. Whither? And to what?
I could but look. And on the farther shore,
Beyond a summer sea, I saw a town
Of palaces, and in its midst a hill,
And on the hill a church, and on the church 
A dome whose lines seemed all to parallel 
The smiling sky, and on the dome, itself 
Of gold, a cross with arms and tree of gold, 
So tall and beautiful it blazed afar 
In fervid opposition to the sun.
0 Dervish, thine it is to marvel now!
1 could but gaze, and covet what I saw; 
And in a trice the cross upon the dome—
No hand appearing—vanished with a crash, 
And in its place I saw a crescent stoop, 
And plant itself in moonlike loveliness—
Whereat I woke.'

                             "Thus Othman closed the tale,
And then, like doomed men who calmly wait
The ruthless bowman's string, with folded hands,
And breathless, bowed his head. And presently
The Dervish, risen, touched the jetty curls
With trembling fingers, saying, ' Thou hast had
A wondrous Vision, Son of Ertoghrul—
A Vision, not a dream. A sentinel,
The whitest winged of all the white-winged host
That keeps the azure arch of Paradise,
Beheld thy spirit in the sapphire waves
Of deepest sleep submerged, yet making moan,
And struggling, so their ever-silent flow
Was broken; and he took it in his arms,
And mounted to the pitch above the sky
Whence it might see the World of Things to Come,
Apart from Heaven. Wherefore all that passed
Before thee in the Vision shall come to pass
In very order as 'twas given thee
To see them. That thou leav'st undone
And wanting shall remain a heritage
Of labor for thy sons, and sons of theirs,
Till all is done. Look, Son of Ertoghrul!
Lift up thine eyes, and with me see the Sign
So long in prayer at last by Allah sent
To make us glad! And, lo! his Will in love,
And the one Right Way by the Prophet stretched
Before me, like a path of gold aglow;
And she, the mother of thy Malkatoon,
So young, so fair, so pure the very grave
Did borrow beauty from her life that was,
Must now release me of the promise made
To her that awful hour when Death was come
And pouring darkness in her wistful eyes,
Which yet he could not all put out or reave
Of loving light; and if the Way should dim,
Or lose itself, or any need of help
O'ertake me, she, sweet soul, will hear my call,
And even guide me with her cheery voice
In lieu of helping hand.'

                             "And then again
The Dervish kissed his guest with joy amazed
And stupefied; but in his open palm
He kissed him, saying, so the gray-faced walls
Brake into loud alarms of ecstasy,
1 Young father of my Tribe! Lord! Lord! my Lord 1'
And so the old man sware himself thenceforth
A tribesman of the Tribe. Then he arose,
And going, turned to say full pleasantly,
'When hence thou goest, be it to appoint
The wedding-day, and with the feast concern
Thyself, remembering to make it large
And kingly. Every destiny must have
Its morning, noon, and night'"

THE END