He was interrupted by the cries of the women. “We shall be murdered—murdered in the dark,” they moaned. “We knew how it would end! Death is the honour of a Sultan’s wives.”
A rifle-shot sounded from the street and, dark in the darkness, a form cowered back upon the divan, making the draperies shake.
“They are quick,” he gasped. “They are always so quick! They do not leave time for my plans. The sword of Islam is at work in Asia now. My orders were to slay and slay. They must be dead by now—thousands of them dead—thousands of cursed men and women—as many thousands as once made the quays so red—as many thousands as in the churches and villages long ago, or on the mountains of Monastir. Europe will not endure it. The Powers will intervene. They will save my life. They will come to set me free. They will give me back my power—my power and my life. I alone can govern this people. They know it. I am the only chance of peace. I have toiled without ceasing. I have never harmed a living soul. They themselves say I am merciful. It is no pleasure to me to have people killed. The Powers will come to save me. They will not let me die. Why are those rebels so quick? They do not give me time, and all my plans were ready! Far down in Asia the killing has begun. Why does not the telegraph speak? The Powers will intervene. They will not let me die.”
“Sire,” said the jester, “people are lighting lamps in the street. They are firing guns. They are crying ‘Long live the new Sultan!’ Your Majesty’s brother is proclaimed.”
“I am the Sultan,” cried the voice; “I am the Khalif, I am the successor of the Prophet. Tell them I am the successor of the Prophet! Tell them they dare not kill me!”
“Sire,” said the jester, “greatness shares the common fate. The will of the Eternal is above all monarchs.”
The firing of many rifles was heard in the street below. The door of the large chamber was flung wide, open, and a flood of yellow light revealed the piled up luggage, the muffled forms of women, and a dark little figure curled upon the divan, his head hidden in his arms.
“Oh, be merciful,” he cried. “Spare my life, only spare my life! What, would you kill a ruler like me? Would you kill an old, old man?”
“Your Highness,” said an officer in a quiet voice, “dinner is served.”
No doubt the Gods laughed when Macaulay went to India. Among the millions who breathed religion, and whose purpose in life was the contemplation of eternity, a man intruded himself who could not even meditate, and regarded all religion, outside the covers of the Bible, as a museum of superstitious relics. Into the midst of peoples of an immemorial age, which seemed to them as unworthy of reckoning as the beating wings of a parrot’s flight from one temple to the next, there came a man in whose head the dates of European