Page:The Coming Race, etc - 1888.djvu/144

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accepting a fief under his dominion, I find that the very Crime of El Zagal is fixed upon me by my unhappy subjects—that they deem he would not have yielded but for my supineness. At the moment of my delivery from my rival, I am received with execration by my subjects, and, driven into this my fortress of the Alhambra, dare not venture to head my armies, or to face my people; yet am I called weak and irresolute, when strength and courage are forbid me. And as the water glides from yonder rock, that hath no power to retain it, I see the tide of empire welling from my hands."

The young king spoke warmly and bitterly; and, in the irritation of his thoughts, strode, while he spoke, with rapid and irregular strides along the chamber. Almamen marked his emotion with an eye and lip of rigid composure.

"Light of the faithful," said he, when Boabdil had concluded, "the powers above never doom man to perpetual sorrow, nor perpetual joy: the cloud and the sunshine are alike essential to the heaven of our destinies; and if thou hast suffered in thy youth, thou hast exhausted the calamities of fate, and thy manhood will be glorious, and thine age serene."

"Thou speakest as if the armies of Ferdinand were not already around my walls," said Boabdil, impatiently.

"The armies of Sennacherib were as mighty," answered Almamen.

"Wise seer," returned the king, in a tone half sarcastic and half solemn, "we, the Musselmen of Spain, are not the blind fanatics of the Eastern world. On us have fallen the lights of philosophy and science; and if the more clear-sighted among us yet outwardly reverence the forms and fables worshipped by the multitude, it is from the wisdom of policy, not the folly of belief. Talk not to me, then, of thine examples of the ancient and elder creeds: the agents of God for this world are now, at least, in men, not angels; and if I wait till Ferdinand share the destiny of Sennacherib, I wait only till the Standard of the Cross wave above the Vermilion Towers."

"Yet," said Almamen, "while my lord the king rejects the fanaticism of belief, doth he reject the fanaticism of persecution? You disbelieve the stories of the Hebrews; yet you suffer the Hebrews themselves, that ancient and kindred Arabian race, to be ground to the dust, condemned and tortured by your judges, your informers, your soldiers, and your subjects."

"The base misers! they deserve their fate," answered Boabdil, loftily. "Gold is their god, and the market-place their country; amidst the tears and groans of nations, they sympathize only with the rise and fall of trade ; and, the thieves of the universe! while their hand is against every man's coffer, why wonder that they