They had reached the center of the plain when the sound they had long looked for rang on their ears, piercing the heavy, breathless stillness of the night. It was the Allah-il-Allah of their foes, the war-cry of the Moslem. Out of the gloom whether from long pursuit or some near hiding-place they could not tell there broke suddenly upon them the fury of an Arab onslaught.
Nothing is now to be heard all around but the evening prayers of the caravanserai guests; listening to the multitudinous cries of Allah-il-Allah around me, I fall asleep.
Then a fat old man, in printed calico shirt sleeves, and a plaid waistcoat and corduroy trousers, pulled off his shoes, squatted on the grave, and recited endless 'Koran', many reciting after him. Then they chanted 'Allah-il-Allah' for twenty minutes, I think: then prayers, with 'Ameens' and 'Allah il-Allahs' again. Then all jumped up and walked off.
The Flower of the Faithful were in three divisions dismounted. Throwing off their clumsy gowns, they stood forth in glittering mail, and shaking their brassy shields in air, shouted the old salute: "Live the Padishah! Live the Padishah!" The road to the gate was cleared; then the Aga galloped back, and when abreast of the yellow flag of the first division, he cried: "Allah-il-Allah! Forward!"
The cry Allah-il-Allah shouted from the moat was trifling in comparison with what they might have overheard around the bonfires. "Why do you burn your huts?" asked a prudent officer of his men. "Because we will not need them more. The city is for us to-morrow. The Padishah has promised and sworn." "Did he swear it?" "Ay, by the bones of the Three in the Tomb of the Prophet."
The mosque is approached from an adjacent village by a viaduct of twenty arches; a propos of its peculiar surroundings, one might easily fancy the muezzin's call to prayer taking the appropriate form of, "Come where the water-lilies bloom," instead of the orthodox, "Allah-il-allah." Villages are now rows of shops lining the road on either side, sometimes as much as half a mile in length.
Observe, and when the road is cleared let go with the Flower of the Faithful. A province to the first through; and this the battle-cry: Allah-il-Allah! They will fight under my eye. Minutes are worth kingdoms. Go thou, and let go."
"The spoils think of the spoils the gold, the women!... Allah-il-Allah!... Up, up it is the way to Paradise!" Darts and javelins literally cast the climbers in a thickened shade. Sometimes a ponderous stone plunging down cleaned a ladder from top to bottom; sometimes, waiting until the rounds were filled, the besieged applied levers, and swung a score and more off helpless and shrieking.
Led by their ghazees, the main body of Afghans hidden in the villages and orchards on the east side of Sherpur had rushed out in one dense mob, and were filling the air with their shouts of "Allah-il-Allah."
I know not who these are, nor whence they come; Nor need we care. 'Twas Allah led them here, And we will honor Him and this our law; What though the weak may not be always right, We'll make it always right to help the weak. Deep take the stirrups now, and ride with me, Allah-il-Allah!"