Alfred John Church.

Stories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries online

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the Common Father, who provides for all His
creatures, and so went with new strength and
confidence on his way.

After many a day's toil he came to Bagdad.
There indeed, for all its pomp and wealth,
though the merchants of East and West met
in her bazaars, and long troops of laden camels
lined her streets, and Tigris bore fleets of
vessels on his stream, Thalaba did not linger
for a day. He loathed everything that should
delay the hour, when returning from his search,
he should hang Hodeirah's sword on the pillar
of Moath's tent. Before the sun had risen he
passed out of the gates, and the last light of the
sun was in the horizon when he came to the
ruins of Babylon. It was a desolate place ; the
scorpion basked in the palace courts, and the


she-wolf hid her litter in the temples. The
Arab never pitched his tent within the walls,
and the shepherd drove his flocks far from
them. And Thalaba went cautiously, feeling
the ground before him with his bow, till he
came to a place where he could proceed no
longer, the ruins closing him in on every side.
He leant against a broken column, thinking
what he should next do. Soon he heard steps
approaching, and turning saw in the moonlight
a man in full armour approaching.

" Who are you," said the stranger, " that at
such an hour you wander in such a place as
this ? A traveller that has lost his way ? or a
robber hiding his plunder, or a magician with
spells to make these ruins disclose the treasures
that some say are buried among them ? "

" I am neither traveller, nor robber, nor
magician," said Thalaba ; " I seek the angels,
Haruth and Maruth ; but tell me, Stranger,
why are you here ? "

The soldier, himself haughty and fearless,
was not ill-pleased with the lad's spirit. " Do
you know," he said, " the cause of their punish-
ment ? "


" I have been seeking for it in vain."

" Have you courage to tread a dangerous
path ? "

"Lead on!"

" Young Arab, if your heart beats evenly in
danger ; if you do not fear what makes other
men tremble ; if you can look undismayed at
what even the soldier well tried in battle might
well shrink from, then follow me, for I am bound
for the cave."

" Lead on," said Thalaba again, and Mohareb
(for that was the stranger's name) led the

There was a strange sound about the two as
they went. It was not the wind, for Thalaba's
long locks lay unmoved upon his shoulders.
It was not the roar of the river as it rushed
down some waterfall, for Euphrates flowed
quietly over the plain. It came from the black
boiling springs that rose in the great bitumen
lake. Along the lake's side the two travellers
walked, till they came to a cave out of the
mouth of which the black torrent rolled.
Mohareb turned to Thalaba and said, " Dare
you enter it ? "


" Lead on," said Thalaba the third time, and
set his foot inside the cave.

" Stay, madman! " cried his guide, " would you
rush headlong on certain death ? Where are
your arms with which to meet the Keeper of
the passage ? "

A loud shriek from the depths of the cavern
drowned Thalaba's answer. " Fate favours
you," said Mohareb, " or your name had been
blotted to-day out of the Book of Life."

As he spoke he drew a bag from underneath
his cloak. " You are a brave boy," he said,
"but to leap unprepared into danger, as lions
rush upon the hunter's spear, is folly. Zohak
the giant keeps the passage, and it is not by
force we can win it." He drew a man's hand,
shrivelled and dry and black, out of the bag,
and fitted a taper into the fingers. " See," said
he, " this is a murderer's hand ; the very hand
with which he did the deed. I drove the
vultures from the stake on which he died im-
paled, and cut off the hand, and dried it for
nine weeks in the sun. And the taper but
you have not learnt these secrets. See how
clear it burns, but its ingredients scatter a



deathly vapour through the cave ; and when
the keeper of the passage feels them, it will lull
even his agony to sleep, and he will leave the
passage free."

Mohareb led the way with the taper in his
hand ; and now they came to where the cave
became loftier and narrower. Here Zohak sat
with great snakes growing from his shoulders.
Mohareb held the taper towards him ; and the
magic spell of the taper had such power that
his eyes closed in sleep, and he lay all his length
along the floor of the passage. But the two
snakes were not asleep. They darted out their
fiery tongues, and shut the passage. Mohareb
drew from his wallet two fresh human heads,
and threw them down before them. They
turned eagerly to their horrid feast, and the
travellers passed unharmed. And now the cave
opened wider than before, till they came to a
great pit, so deep and black that no eye could
pierce its darkness.

" Here," said Mohareb, " the angels that
teach enchantments dwell."

Thalaba said aloud, " Haruth and Maruth,
hear us ! I do not come to learn forbidden


secrets. By God's command I am here. Tell
me the Talisman."

" Do you think," said Mohareb, " that you
will thus trick them out of their secret ? Keep
this righteousness of the lip for the mosque and
the market-place. The spirits know the heart ;
only compelled by strong and torturing spells
will they tell you the secret by which you can

" Descend ! " cried Thalaba, astonished.

" What ! " said Mohareb, " have I led some
silly prayermonger here ? What brings you to
this place ? By heaven you shall pay for your
folly in coming." And he lifted his scymitar
to strike him.

He lifted it ; but his arm hung powerless in
the air ; for the mighty spell of the Ring forbad
it to fall. In a rage he cried, " Then this is
your trust in God ! He had failed to save you
but for the Ring. It is to spells and magic
that you trust after all."

" Blasphemer ! " cried Thalaba, " do you say
that I trust in magic spells for want of faith in
God ? See now." And he took Abdaldar's
ring from his finger, and threw it into the pit.


A skinny hand came up, and caught it as it fell,
and peals of devilish laughter shook the cave.

Mohareb's cheek flushed with joy, and he
lifted his scymitar again. Thalaba saw the
blue gleam of the blade as it descended, and
sprang at the soldier, and grappled him breast
to breast. Mohareb was sinewy and large of
limb, broad shouldered, and his joints well knit,
and he was practised in the art of war.
Thalaba' s strength was not so mature ; but the
inspiration of the moment gave him the strength
of a madman. Mohareb reeled before him.
With knee and breast and arm he pressed on
his enemy and drove him backwards to the very
brink of the pit. For a moment they struggled
fiercely on the very edge ; then with a fresh
impulse of force Thalaba thrust him down, and
Mohareb was engulfed in the abyss.

His breath came fast with the struggle.
Panting he breathed out a broken prayer of
thankfulness ; then said

" Haruth and Maruth, are ye here ? or has
that servant of sin misled me ? I, Thalaba,
Servant of the Lord, invoke you. Hear me ;
so may Heaven accept your penitence. I go to


root. out of earth the sorcerer brood. Tell me
the Talisman I need."

As he spoke, beyond the abyss he saw the
angels reclining on the rock. Their faces were
sad ; but guilt and shame had been purged
away. This was their answer. " Son of
Hodeirah ! thou hast proved it here. The
Talisman is Faith."




THALABA retraced his steps to the outer air.
The giant Zohak lay stretched on the ground.
He was awake indeed, but he did not reach
out his hand to bar the way, fearing to rouse
the snakes, which were still lingering over their
meal. Gladly Thalaba found himself at last
again in the outer air, and gladly he lay down
to sleep in the shelter of a ruin of which the
roof was yet left.

The next morning when he awoke, he found
a horse standing by his side. Never had he
seen one of more faultless shape and brighter
eye ; no not even among those that are said
to come from King Solomon's own stud. He
was adorned with rich trappings of crimson,
but had neither bit nor bridle in his mouth.


" Surely," said Thalaba to himself, " he is sent
by Heaven, and will go as Heaven bids him.
It is not the rider who is to guide him."
Meanwhile the creature threw up his head, and
pawed the ground as if impatient to start. So
Thalaba leapt lightly on his back, and in a
moment the horse bounded away. Over the
plain he sped, and did not halt till the sun was
low in the sky. Then he paused ; Thalaba
lay down to sleep, and the horse rested by his
side. So they travelled on day after day, till
one evening, when they halted, the horse
sprang away. He had done his errand. The
evening was dark, the clouds hiding the moon ;
nor could Thalaba hear any sound but of
running water ; guiding his way by this, he
came to a little stream, one of many with
which the ground was intersected. The first
from which he stooped to drink was boiling
hot ; but the steam rising from his hand
warned him in time not to try it. The next
was intensely cold. Of this he drank deeply,
and thus refreshed lay down to sleep.

The next day, following the rills, he came to
a river into which they flowed. There looking


about him he saw in the distance a high range
of mountains, and, leading up to them, a wide
stony valley. Something seemed to tell him
that this was the path which he must follow.
As he went on, still mounting higher and
higher, the valley grew narrower, and the
rocks steeper on either side, till at last he
came to a place where they met, barring all
further passage ; in the barrier indeed there
had been hewn an opening, but this was
closed by massive gates of iron. A horn with
ivory tip and mouth of brass hung by the
gates. This Thalaba took, and breathed into
the mouth. The blast rang like thunder
among the rocks ; and the gates rolled back
without any one to move them. He entered,
and they closed behind him with a clap like
thunder. It was a narrow winding way in
which he found himself, lighted by dim lamps
that hung from the roof, and descended con-
tinually. At last Thalaba found his way
barred again by gates of iron, but by these
latter also hung a horn of brass and ivory.
Thalaba took it and breathed into it. This
time the answer came not in thunder, but in


the sweetest music that can be imagined.
And again the gates rolled back of their own
accord. For a moment Thalaba thought he
must be in the very garden of Eden. But
Eden had no marble terraces, nor tents of
cloth of gold, such as could be seen among
the perfumed groves and shrubberies of this
wonderful place. And then he thought that
he must be dreaming, and shut his eyes, but
when he opened them again everything was
there, palaces and glittering courts and per-
fumed groves. As he looked and wondered,
an old man of a very gracious and reverend
look came forward and greeted him. " Happy
youth, go and taste the joys of Paradise.
The reinless horse that ranges over the
world brings hither only those that are
marked out for great deeds. Here they have
a foretaste of happiness ; hence they go out
bound on great enterprises ; hither they re-
turn to an endless felicity. Go then and
taste the joys of Paradise."

He turned away and left the youth silent
with wonder. Wherever his eyes could reach
he saw new marvels of delight. Through


openings in the woods he saw rich pavilions
curtained with gold. Streams clear as crystal
wandered through the shrubbery and lawn.
The broad-leaved planes arched over in long
colonnades, while round their trunks the vines
climbed up, clothing them with a yet fresher
green and with clusters of purple and gold.
And the ground was carpeted with flowers,
tulips streaked with the sky at sunset, and the
lily with her snowy head and the red-bosomed
rose. The air, too, was full of music, while
the nightingale sang from his bower of roses
more sweetly than he ever sang on earth, and
from far away came the cries of the waterfowls,
and now and then, mellowed by the distance,
came the voice of merriment. Thalaba wan-
dered on, till at length, at the bidding of
hunger, he entered a banqueting-room. There
on the brink of a fountain, on carpets of silk,
sat a company of guests. The air was cooled
by the water as it rose and fell ; the very light
came cooled through panes of pearly shell, or
was tinged saffron or ruby as it fell through
vases of wine that filled the openings in the
ceiling. In that delicious coolness the re-


vellers reclined at ease, and drank from
goblets of gold the amber juice of the grapes
of Shiraz. Thalaba would have none of the
wine, knowing it to be forbidden, and indeed
the mother of sins ; nor did the guests offer
it a second time, for they saw that this youth
was not one who could be turned from his
purpose. But he drank the water, water that
seemed clearer and purer than when it came
from the spring; and partook of the fruits,
for there were fruits of all kinds, water-melons
with rough rinds that melted on the lips, and
pistachio nuts, and amber grapes from Persia
that had been dried in the sun till they were
all sweetness, and apricots cased in ice, like
topazes set in crystal, and oranges on plates
of snow. And as he ate, the rich smoke from
aloes and sandalwood burning in censers of
gold filled the room with perfume. Then came
in a troop of dancers, with bells upon their
ankles, and danced before the guests, making
music as they moved. But Thalaba rose dis-
pleased, thinking that it did not become the
lover of Oneiza to be in such company, and
leaving the banqueting-room wandered forth


into the garden. As he looked, he could not
but remember that he was a lonely man,
wandering about the world, and shut out from
the joys of home, and for a moment he mur-
mured against the will of Heaven.

Hurrying away from those scenes of revelry,
he sought the shade and silence of the wood,
and there throwing himself on the ground
thought of the desert and of Moath's tent and
of Oneiza. As he dreamed he was roused by
a cry of distress. It came louder and nearer,
and he started up, strung his bow, and plucked
an arrow from the quiver. He heard the cry
again, and now it was close at hand ; and it
was a woman's shriek. In another moment he
saw a woman rush through the trees, her veil
half torn from her face, and her pursuer close
behind. " Help me," she cried, turning to
Thalaba. At the word the arrow flew, and
did its errand of death. Then he turned to
the woman and saw Oneiza.

When she could breathe again she cried,
" O my father ! my father ! " Thalaba lost in
wonder and fearing to ask could but wait with
her. " They seized me, Thalaba," she said,

Dancing Girls.


" they seized me in my sleep at night. My
father could not help me ; he is an old man,
and they were many and strong. To think
that they could have heard his prayer and
yet leave him childless ! ''

" We will seek him ; we will go back to the

" Alas ! we should not find him. Our tent
is desolate. The wind has heaped the sand
within the door. My father wanders about
the world seeking me. O Thalaba, this is a
wicked place ; let us be gone."

" But how ? How shall we pass the iron
gates ? They moved at a breath to let me in,
but armies could not stir them for my return."

"We will climb the mountains that shut in
this hateful garden."

" Are you strong enough to climb ? "

" Strong enough surely for anything, partly
from fear, and partly, dear Thalaba, that you
are with me."

As she spoke she took his hand, and drew
him gently towards the mountains. But when
they came to the foot of them, they found no
slopes gradually leading upward, but steep


cliffs, rising sheer from the ground. There
was no way by which the most skilful and
bold of mountaineers could climb.

" There is no way," said Thalaba, and Oneiza
grew pale and her steps flagged. " But stay,"
said the youth, " I passed a river, a full stream ;
the waters cannot be kept in, and where they
find a way it may be that we can follow. This
way the river runs."

They followed the course of the stream, as
it rolled along full and silent ; but as they
advanced they heard a sound as of a waterfall
louder and louder, and so came to a place
where the whole plunged at one leap down a
precipice of rock.

" God save us ! " cried Oneiza ; " there is no
way from this accursed place," and her heart
sank with fear.

" Cheer up," Thalaba said ; " if we cannot
escape the dangers of this place, yet we can
conquer them. But tell me who has prepared
this garden of delights and for what ? "

"When I was brought here," answered
Oneiza, " the women told me that it was the
abode of the magician Aloaddin. He in-


toxicates men with the delights of this place,
till they are ready to commit all manner of
crimes at his bidding. And what will you do
against all these ?"

Thalaba's face grew dark as he heard.
"Woe to him," he said, with a stern smile,
" woe to him ! he laid a net for an Antelope,
but a Lion has come in."

She shook her head. " Ah ! but he is a
sorcerer, and guarded by many ; and you,
Thalaba, are but one."

" Ay, but there is a God, Oneiza, and I have
a Talisman that protects from all the powers of
Earth and Hell whoever bears it. Remember,
too, that Destiny has marked me from man-
kind. But now lie down and rest, fearing no
evil. I will watch by you."

So Oneiza lay down on a bank of flowers ;
and after she had calmed her spirit with prayer,
sank peacefully to sleep. And Thalaba sat
and watched her, and as he watched his spirit
rose, and he waited in good hope for the day.




THE song of the lark awoke Oneiza, and she
wished, as she watched the bird twinkling in the
morning light, that she had wings and liberty
like him. Her cheek flushed and grew pale
again, but Thalaba was calm and ready for his
work. But first he considered how he should
arm himself, remembering that his arrow had
fallen with a blunted point from Lobaba's
breast. It might well be, he thought, that
Aloaddin might be protected by a spell of equal
power. Thus thinking he caught sight of a
young poplar that stood by the brink of the
river, with its leaves shivering in the wind, and
turned to Oneiza and said, " I remember how
in the old days you would bring down the
clusters of dates from the palms, cutting the


stalks with the arrow, so true was your aim.
Take the bow again, dear maid ; I must have
different arms."

So speaking he grasped the poplar with both
hands, and wrenched it from the earth, roots
and all. From these he shook off the clotted
earth, and broke away the head, and boughs,
and lesser roots, till he had fashioned a mighty
club. " Now I am ready for this child of sin.
He shall exchange, maybe to-day, his paradise
for a far different dwelling."

So the youth and the maid went to the centre
of the garden. It so chanced that Aloaddin had
that day assembled all the inhabitants, and the
two mingled unnoticed with the throng, or if
any one noticed them it was to say, " See a
daughter of the Homerites who remembers yet
the tents of the tribes, for their women know
how to wield the bow and the spear." " Nay,"
his neighbour would answer, " it is a love
pageant. He with that fierce eye and massy
club mimics some lion-tamer, and she plays the
heroine with her arrows and her bow."

Aloaddin sat on a throne of gold, his crown
and robe shining with jewels. Over his head



hovered a huge bird, so huge that an eagle
would have been but like a sparrow in his clasp.
His breast was iron and his feathers burnished
gold, and he waved his wings, at once a canopy
and a fan. The crowd bent their knees to the
sorcerer, and shouted, " Hail, great Giver of
Joy, Lord of Paradise ! " Then he rose to
speak, and they stood silent.

" Children of Earth, the Infidel Sultan, whose
lands are bordered by my mountains, threatens
me. He has strong armies and many guards ;
yet a dagger may find him. I do not tempt
you with vain stories of a heaven from which
no one has returned. You have tasted of
happiness here. Who will earn it for ever for
himself by a deed of danger ? "

" I will," cried Thalaba, and leaping forward
dashed his mighty club on the Sorcerer's head.
The wretch fell, for his skull was shattered, but
some charm still kept his life imprisoned in his
body. The crowd stood astonished, waiting to
see the vengeance of Heaven fall on Thalaba.
And indeed the Monster Bird pounced down to
seize him. But before he could strike with his
beak, Oneiza let fly an arrow from the mighty


bow with so true an aim that it pierced the
creature to the heart. With that the Talisman
was broken ; and while the earth shook and
the heavens thundered, the Paradise of Sin
vanished away. Now too the mountains that
had by magic enclosed the place were rent, and
Thalaba and Oneiza, left alone in the midst of
desolation and death, went down the rocky glen
into the valley below.

In the valley the Sultan had pitched his
camp. As he sat in his tent in council with his
chiefs, Thalaba and the maid were brought
before him by a captain who thus told his tale.

" As we passed towards the mountains in
obedience to your command, suddenly the
earth shook, and the air became dark as mid-
night, and the lightnings flashed, and the
thunders rolled round us. It seemed as if the
very judgment-day had come. When we
ventured to proceed there met us this youth
and maid who told us that they were come
from Aloaddin's halls, that the judgment-stroke
had fallen upon him, and that he and his
Paradise of Sin were destroyed. We brought
them here that they might repeat the tale in
your presence."


" If thou hast lied," said the Sultan to the
youth, " thou shalt die. If thou speakest truth,
thou shalt stand next to myself."

" Be it done to me," answered Thalaba, " as
the truth shall prove."

While he was speaking, a great cry was
heard, and a messenger flew breathless and
panting into the tent. " O King, live for
ever ! " he said. " May all thy foes be as
Aloaddin, for God has smitten him."

The Sultan cried, " Put the robe of honour on
the Arabian, and put a chain of gold around his
neck, and my crown on his head, and set him
on my horse of state, and lead him through the
camp, and let the heralds go before him and
cry, ' Thus shall it be done to the man whom
the King honours.' '

So they put the robe of honour on Thalaba,
and a chain of gold about his neck, and the
King's crown on his head, and led him through
the camp on the King's own horse, and the
heralds cried before him as the King had

When Thalaba had come from the presence
of the King, he sought Oneiza and said, " The


King has done as he said. I am next to him-
self in this land. But why so sad ? When I
heard of these honours, my thought was at
once of you, that you also would be happy."

" But, Thalaba, am not I an orphan and
among strangers ? "

" But with me."

" But think, Thalaba my father ! "

" Nay, take comfort. Remember in what
danger we were this morning, and now we have
safety and honour and wealth. The Sultan
asked me about you but just now. I told him
that we had been plighted from childhood..
Was I wrong, Oneiza ? He said that he
would heap our marriage with gifts. But
why these tears ? "

"Remember Destiny hath marked thee from-

" Perhaps the mission ceased when Aloaddin
perished, or if not, why should I not abide in
peace till I am called ? "

" Take me to the desert."

" Moath is not there. Would you dwell in a
stranger's tent ? "

" Take me to Mecca. Let me be a servant.


of the Temple. Bind my veil with your own
hand. It shall never be lifted again, and I will
pray for your success."

" Nay, Oneiza, think of better things. Re-
port will soon spread about the fame of these
events, and your father will hear, and join us.

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchStories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries → online text (page 3 of 13)