Omar excused himself and Sharif paused, absently admiring a portrait of The Woodland Maid by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Portrait painters had to lie, he thought, but a man never should. Our fool should have read Chesterfield, Sharif thought, and shook his head sadly. We scatter wisdom through our libraries that it may be ignored by our children.
Sharif continued the walk to his office. Theft—the general would forgive Ahmed that. But letting a woman whip him? He’ll roast the boy alive. He’d already nearly disowned him twice. Sharif smiled to himself. And the general and Ahmed’s mother no longer lived together. There had been a fight in the family when Ahmed refused an appointment to the military academy, and last week one of the general’s contraband shipments was intercepted. There were rumors that Ahmed’s mother and uncle were behind it.
Sharif picked up his pace. His back was straighter and he carried his shoulders like the athlete he’d been forty years ago. He playfully swung his cane as he walked and wondered if the General knew of England’s Henry II?1 Sharif was sure the General remembered the story of Shah Jahan.2 And Ahmed! Ahmed would not have been so cock-sure of himself if he’d known anything of the Imperial succession following Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible.3 Sharif thought that a great pity, and hoped Ahmed would live long enough to see the parallels.
1 Henry II (1154-1189) married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor and sons Richard (Richard the Lion Heart), Geoffrey, and John frequently fought against Henry, and in 1189, with Phillip Augustus of France, defeated him in battle. He died a few days later.
2 Shahabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan (1592-1666), fifth Mughal Emperor of India and builder of the Taj Mahal, was overthrown and imprisoned by his son, Khurram, in 1658.
3 Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) had his only son tortured to death. Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible, 1530-1584) murdered his only son. It’s rumored they had issues.
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