SALAMAN

A solitary camel came into Mekran by the north gate, driven by a lean
Baluch in a soiled yellow burnous and bearing upon its back a palanquin
with curtains of faded silk. It ambled through the streets and knelt at
the portals of the khan’s palace, where the curtains were drawn and an
aged priest cautiously descended.

Before the entrance was drawn up a company of warriors of the Tribe of
Agot, who solemnly saluted the new arrival and pressed backward that he
might pass within.

The priest paused to note their splendid dress and brightly polished
weapons, eyeing them with the simplicity of a child viewing his first
pageant. His countenance was strangely sweet and guileless, although not
lacking in dignity, and his white garb was of spotless purity. But
above his breast–the focus of every eye of the true believer–hung
suspended a jewelled star that proclaimed him the Grand Mufti of the
Sunnite faith. No wonder the awed warriors pressed backward before the
great Salaman, who had come all the way from his retreat at Takkatu to
visit their khan.

Passing through the courtyard and up the marble stairway the venerable
priest stopped often to mark the luxurious furnishings of the palace.
The building itself was scarcely equal to his own monastery, but the
splendor of its fittings was in strong contrast with the simplicity to
which he was accustomed. The slave Memendama preceded him, pausing at
every turn to salam before his master’s guest.

The ante-rooms were filled with sirdars and captains of the tribes, all
resplendent in attire, as befitted the courtiers of a great khan. Within
one alcove sat Agahr the Vizier, in deep converse with a group of
greybeards who were evidently officers of rank. These also rose to bow
before the priest, and Salaman stopped to read the vizier’s countenance
with curious intentness. When he had passed Agahr looked after him with
a troubled face, and the others, exchanging significant glances, left
him and walked away.

At last Memendama stopped beside a portiere which he drew aside to allow
the priest to enter. It was the private apartment of the khan.

Salaman, stepping within the small room, gave a shrewd glance around and
allowed the semblance of a smile to flit across his grave features. The
place was well lighted with high windows, although the afternoon already
waned, but the walls and floor were bare and the furniture almost severe
in character. Beside a wooden bench knelt the Khan, his head resting
upon his outstretched arms and his body without motion.

The priest’s glance was almost tender as he softly crossed the chamber
and seated himself within the embrasure of a window. The silence
remained unbroken. NORFLOXACIN

After a time the Khan moved and raised his head, fixing his eyes upon
the white-robed priest. There was no start of surprise in his gaze. Very
gently he arose, knelt again before Salaman and kissed with humility the
hem of the priestly robe.

“You are here, my father,” he said, “and I am grateful.”

The priest laid his hand upon the bowed head.

“All is well, my son,” he answered. “Allah and the Prophet have given
you guidance, and your days are righteous.” He paused a moment and then
added: “We are pleased with Ahmed Khan.”

Again there followed a period of prolonged silence.

Then the young man asked:

“You know of my troubles, father?”

“Yes, dear Hafiz. The American girl is here in Mekran.”

“Is it not strange that she has come from across the world to the one
place where I have found refuge?”

“The ways of Allah are good ways,” responded the priest, “and He holds
the strands of fate in relentless hands. Your life is just beginning,
my Hafiz.”

An eager look sprang to the young man’s eyes. He searched the calm
countenance of Salaman as if he feared it might belie the speaker’s
words.

“Do you bid me hope, my master?” he asked, in trembling tones.

A change came over the priest’s face. His eyes seemed masked with a
delicate film that gave them far-seeing power. The lines of the aged
features grew tense and hard, as if deprived of all nervous volition.
His head fell slowly forward until the white beard swept to his knees
and lay upon them like a drift of snow.

Hafiz drew back, clasping his knees with his hands and looking up at the
entranced mufti with expectant gaze.




“The deeds of men bear fruit,” said the voice of the priest, sounding
cold and unreal in the intense stillness, “and the sun of Allah’s will
ripens it all together and brings it from many parts to be heaped within
one measure. The harvest is near, my son. Events will crowd one another
like waves lapping the pool’s edge, and from the midst of strife and
bloodshed I see you rising calm and serene, with the mark of our
gracious Prophet upon your brow…. The Voice of Allah whispers in my
ears … and all is well!”

Silence followed, and neither moved. A shadow crept over the windows,
slowly dimming the light. An hour passed, and another. The room was dark
now, and scarcely could the Khan discern the form of the priest seated
before him. Blackness fell, and the stillness of death remained. From a
neighboring minaret the hours chimed sweetly but all unheeded.

Then came a gleam of silver, striking aslant the priest’s face and
crossing the room like a solid bar, its end melting against the further
wall. The bar grew and spread as the moon rose higher, and soon the
entire room was flooded with a mellow light that rendered every object
distinctly visible.

As if the radiance brought life in its dancing beams the aged mufti
breathed again and moved slightly in his seat. Hafiz, alert to mark the
change, softly arose and went to an alcove, returning with a tray upon
which was arranged a simple repast. This he placed upon a tabaret beside
Salaman and then brought a bowl of water and a towel, bathing the hands
and face of his master with a touch as tender as that of a woman. The
priest’s expression was normal now, but very thoughtful. He ate
sparingly of the food, and afterward the Khan also tasted the dish.

Then Hafiz, having carried away the tray, lighted a small lamp, green
shaded, and both men approached the table and sat beside it.

“May I ask of Ahmed, my father?”

“He is now of the Imaum, well favored of the Prophet, his comrade, and
happy in pursuit of a divine solution of the mysteries.”

“Here his gentle soul would have been cankered with misery.”

The priest nodded. Hafiz, after a hesitating look into the other’s face
continued:

“I have placed a woman in my harem, father.”

A smile reassured him.

“All is known to me, my son,” came the calm reply. “But I must speak
with you concerning the Vision with which Allah has just favored me.
Your vizier is not a true man, dear Hafiz.”

“I have feared as much, my father, though striving to win him to me by
many favors.”

“He plots for your destruction, urged to treachery by a maiden very
beautiful to mortal eyes, but equally repulsive to the all-wise Allah.”

“It is his daughter,” said the Khan, musingly.

“I have seen a man riding from Agahr the vizier to the camp of Kasam.
Listen well, my son, for the Vision was given me that you might have
knowledge.”

In low tones Salaman now described the scenes he had witnessed in his
trance, and the Khan attended gravely to each word of the recital,
frowning at times, then smiling, and at the last giving a shudder of
horror as the catastrophy was unfolded.

Afterward he sat long in deep thought, exclaiming at last, with a sigh
of regret:

“These are evil days, my father!”

But the priest’s face shone calm and bright.

“No man knows content,” he answered, “who has never faced despair. The
blessed Allah gives us night that we may welcome the dawn.”