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A Modern Telemachus
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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The leader, a sturdy Turk in a dirty white turban, with a huge sabre in his hand, was listening to the eager words, poured out with many gesticulations by the Genoese captain, in a language utterly incomprehensible to the Scot, but which was the lingua Franca of the Mediterranean ports.

It resulted in four men being placed on guard at the hatchway leading to the cabin, while all the rest, including Arthur, Hebert, Laurence, were driven toward the prow, and made to understand by signs that they must not move on peril of their lives. A Tuck was placed at the helm, and the tartane's head turned towards the pirate captor; and all the others, who were not employed otherwise, began to ransack the vessel and feast on the provisions. Some hams were thrown overboard, with shouts of evident scorn as belonging to the unclean beast, but the wine was eagerly drank, and Maitre Hebert uttered a wail of dismay as he saw five Moors gorging large pieces of his finest pate.



CHAPTER IV—WRECKED

'They had na sailed upon the sea A day but barely three, When the lift grew dark and the wind blew cauld And gurly grew the sea.

'Oh where will I find a little wee boy Will tak my helm in hand, Till I gae up to my top mast And see for some dry land.'

SIR PATRICK SPENS.

It was bad enough on the deck of the unfortunate Genoese tartane, but far worse below, where eight persons were shut into the stifling atmosphere of the cabin, deprived of the knowledge of what was going on above, except from the terrific sounds they heard. Estelle, on being shut into the cabin, announced that the Phoenician ship was taken by the vessels of Sesostris, but this did not afford any one else the same satisfaction as she appeared to derive from it. Babette and Rosette were echoing every scream of the crew, and quite certain that all would be massacred, and little Ulysse, wakened by the hubbub, rolled round in his berth and began to cry.

Madame de Bourke, very white, but quite calm, insisted on silence and then said, 'I do not think the danger is very great to ourselves if you will keep silence and not attract attention. But our hope is in Heaven. My brother, will you lead our prayers? Recite our office.' Obediently the Abbe fell on his knees, and his example was followed by the others. His voice went monotonously on throughout with the Latin. The lady, no doubt, followed in her heart, and she made the responses as did the others, fitfully; but her hands and eyes were busy, looking to the priming of two small pistols, which she took out of her jewel case, and the sight of which provoked fresh shrieks from the maids. Mademoiselle Julienne meantime was dressing Ulysse, and standing guard over him, Estelle watching all with eager bright eyes, scarcely frightened, but burning to ask questions, from which her uncle's prayers debarred her.

At the volley of shot, Rosette was reduced to quiet by a swoon, but Victorine, screaming that the wretches would have killed Laurent, would have rushed on deck, had not her mistress forcibly withheld her. There ensued a prodigious yelling and howling, trampling and scuffling, then the sounds of strange languages in vituperation or command, steps coming down the ladder, sounds of altercation, retreat, splashes in the sea, the feeling that the ship was put about—and ever the trampling, the wild cries of exultation, which over and over again made the prisoners feel choked with the horror of some frightful crisis close at hand. And all the time they were in ignorance, their little window in the stern showed them nothing but sea; and even if Madame de Bourke's determination had not hindered Victorine from peeping out of the cabin, whether prison or fortress, the Moorish sentries outside kept the door closed.

How long this continued was scarcely to be guessed. It was hours by their own feelings; Ulysse began to cry from hunger, and his mother gave him and Estelle some cakes that were within reach. Mademoiselle Julienne begged her lady to share the repast, reminding her that she would need all her strength. The Abbe, too, was hungry enough, and some wine and preserved fruits coming to light all the prisoners made a meal which heartened most of them considerably; although the heat was becoming terrible, as the sun rose higher in the sky, and very little air could be obtained through the window, so that poor Julienne could not eat, and Rosette fell into a heavy sleep in the midst of her sighs. Even Estelle, who had got out her Telemaque, like a sort of oracle in the course of being verified, was asleep over it, when fresh noises and grating sounds were board, new steps on deck, and there were steps and voices. The Genoese captain was heard exclaiming, 'Open, Madame! you can do so safely. This is the Algerine captain, who is bound to protect you.'

The maids huddled together behind their lady, who stood forward as the door opened to admit a stout, squarely-built man in the typical dress of a Turk,—white turban, purple coat, broad sash crammed with weapons, and ample trousers,—a truculent-looking figure which made the maids shudder and embrace one another with suppressed shrieks, but which somehow, even in the midst of his Eastern salaam, gave the Countess a sense that he was acting a comedy, and carried her involuntarily back to the Moors whom she had seen in the Cid on the stage. And looking again, she perceived that though brown and weather-beaten, there was a certain Northern ruddiness inherent in his complexion; that his eyes were gray, so far as they were visible between the surrounding puckers; and his eyebrows, moustache, and beard not nearly so dark as the hair of the Genoese who stood cringing beside him as interpreter. She formed her own conclusions and adhered to them, though he spoke in bad Arabic to the skipper, who proceeded to explain that El Reis Hamed would offer no injury to Madame la Comtesse, her suite or property, being bound by treaty between the Dey and the King of France, but that he required to see her passport. There was a little blundering in the Italian's French rendering, and Madame de Bourke was quick to detect the perception of it in the countenance of the Reis, stolid though it was. She felt no doubt that he was a renegade of European birth, and watched, with much anxiety as well as curiosity, his manner of dealing with her passports, which she would not let out of her own hand. She saw in a moment that though he let the Genoese begin to interpret them, his eyes were following intelligently; and she hazarded the observation, 'You understand, sir. You are Frank.'

He turned one startled glance towards the door to see if there were any listeners, and answered, 'Hollander, Madame.'

The Countess had travelled with diplomatists all her life, and knew a little of the vernacular of most languages, and it was in Dutch—broken indeed, but still Dutch—that she declared that she was sure that she might rely on his protection—a security which in truth she was far from feeling; for while some of these unfortunate men, renegades only from weakness, yearned after their compatriots and their lost home and faith, others out-heroded the Moors themselves in ferocity, especially towards the Christian captives; nor was a Dutchman likely to have any special tenderness in his composition, above all towards the French. However, there was a certain smile on the lips of Reis Hamed, and he answered with a very hearty, 'Ja! ja! Madame. Upon my soul I will let no harm come to you or the pretty little ones, nor the young vrouwkins either, if they will keep close. You are safe by treaty. A Reis would have to pay a heavy reckoning with Mehemed Dey if a French ambassador had to complain of him, and you will bear me witness, Madame, that I have not touched a hair of any of your heads!'

'I am sure you wish me well, sir,' said Madame de Bourke in a dignified way, 'but I require to be certified of the safety of the rest of my suite, my steward, my lackey, and my husband's secretary, a young gentleman of noble birth.'

'They are safe, Madame. This Italian slave can bear me witness that no creature has been harmed since my crew boarded this vessel.'

'I desire then that they may be released, as being named in my passport.'

To this the Dutchman consented.

Whereupon the skipper began to wring his hands, and piteously to beseech Madame to intercede for him, but the Dutchman cut him short before she could speak. 'Dog of an Italian, the lady knows better! You and your fellows are our prize—poor enough after all the trouble you have given us in chasing you.'

Madame de Bourke spoke kindly to the poor man, telling him that though she could do nothing for him now, it was possible that she might when she should have rejoined her husband, and she then requested the Reis to land her and her suite in his long-boat on the Spanish coast, which could be seen in the distance, promising him ample reward if he could do so.

To this he replied: 'Madame, you ask what would be death to me.'

He went on to explain that if he landed her on Christian ground, without first presenting her and her passport to the Dey and the French Consul, his men might represent him as acting in the interests of the Christians, and as a traitor to the Algerine power, by taking a bribe from a person belonging to a hostile state, in which case the bowstring would be the utmost mercy he could expect; and the reigning Dey, Mehemed, having been only recently chosen, it was impossible to guess how he might deal with such cases. Once at Algiers, he assured Madame de Bourke that she would have nothing to fear, as she would be under the protection of the French Consul; and she had no choice but to submit, though much concerned for the continued anxiety to her husband, as well as the long delay and uncertainty of finding him.

Still, when she perceived that it was inevitable, she complained no more, and the Dutchman went on with a certain bluff kindness—as one touched by her courtesy—to offer her the choice of remaining in the tartane or coming on board his larger vessel. The latter he did not recommend, as he had a crew of full two hundred Turks and Moors, and it would be necessary to keep herself and all her women as closely as possible secluded in the cabins; and even then, he added, that if once seen he could hardly answer for some of those corsairs not endeavouring to secure a fair young Frank girl for his harem; and as his eye fell on Rosette, she bridled and hid herself behind Mademoiselle Julienne.

He must, he said, remove all the Genoese, but he would send on board the tartane only seven men on whom he could perfectly depend for respectful behaviour, so that the captives would be able to take the air on deck as freely as before. There was no doubt that he was in earnest, and the lady accepted his offer with thanks, all the stronger since she and all around her were panting and sick for want of fresh air.

It was a great relief when he took her on deck with him that she might identify the three men whom she claimed as belonging to her suite. Arthur, Lanty, and Hebert, who, in their vague knowledge of the circumstances, had been dreading the oar for the rest of their lives, could hardly believe their good fortune when she called them up to her, and the Abbe gripped Lanty's arm as if he would never let him go again. The poor Italians seemed to feel their fate all the harder for the deliverance of those three, and sobbed, howled, and wept so piteously that Arthur wondered how strong men could so give way, while Lanty's tears sprang forth in sympathy, and he uttered assurances and made signs that he would never cease to pray for their rescue.

'Though,' as he observed, 'they were poor creatures that hadn't the heart of a midge, when there was such a chance of a fight while the haythen spalpeens were coming on board.'

Here Lanty was called on to assist Hebert in identifying his lady's bales of goods, when all those of the unfortunate Genoese were put on board the corsair's vessel. A sail-cloth partition was extended across the deck by the care of the Dutchman, 'who'—as Lanty said—'for a haythen apostate was a very dacent man.' He evidently had a strong compassion and fellow- feeling for the Christian lady, and assured her that she might safely take the air and sit on deck as much as she pleased behind its shelter; and he likewise carefully selected the seven of his crew whom he sent on board to work the ship, the chief being a heavy-looking old Turk, with a chocolate-coloured visage between a huge white beard and eyebrows, and the others mere lads, except one, who, from an indefinable European air about him, was evidently a renegade, and could speak a sort of French, so as to hold communication with the captives, especially Lanty, who was much quicker than any of the rest in picking up languages, perhaps from having from his infancy talked French and English (or rather Irish), and likewise learnt Latin with his foster-brother. This man was the only one permitted to go astern of the partition, in case of need, to attend to the helm; but the vessel was taken in tow by the corsair, and needed little management. The old Turk seemed to regard the Frankish women like so many basilisks, and avoided turning a glance in their direction, roaring at his crew if he only saw them approaching the sail-cloth, and keeping a close watch upon the lithe black-eyed youths, whose brown limbs carried them up the mast with the agility of monkeys. There was one in especial—a slight, well-made fellow about twenty, with a white turban cleaner than the rest—who contrived to cast wonderful glances from the masthead over the barrier at Rosette, who actually smiled in return at ce pauvre garcon, and smiled the more for Mademoiselle Julienne's indignation. Suddenly, however, a shrill shout made him descend hastily, and the old Turk's voice might be heard in its highest key, no doubt shrieking out maledictions on all the ancestry of the son of a dog who durst defile his eyes with gazing at the shameless daughters of the Frank. Little Ulysse was, however, allowed to disport himself wherever he pleased; and after once, under Arthur's protection, going forward, he found himself made very welcome, and offered various curiosities, such as shells, corals, and a curious dried little hippocampus or seahorse.

This he brought back in triumph, to the extreme delight of his sister's classical mind. 'Oh mamma, mamma,' she cried, 'Ulysse really has got the skeleton of a Triton. It is exactly like the stone creatures in the Champs Elysees.'

There was no denying the resemblance, and it so increased the confusion in Estelle's mind between the actual and the mythological, that Arthur told her that she was looking out for the car of Amphitrite to arise from the waters. Anxiety and trouble had made him much better acquainted with Madame de Bourke, who was grateful to him for his kindness to her children, and not without concern as to whether she should be able to procure his release as well as her own at Algiers. For Laurence Callaghan she had no fears, since he was born at Paris, and a naturalised French subject like her husband and his brother; but Arthur was undoubtedly a Briton, and unless she could pass him off as one of her suite, it would depend on the temper of the English Consul whether he should be viewed as a subject or as a rebel, or simply left to captivity until his Scottish relations should have the choice of ransoming him.

She took a good deal of pains to explain the circumstances to him as well as to all who could understand them; for though she hoped to keep all together, and to be able to act for them herself, no one could guess how they might be separated, and she could not shake off that foreboding of misfortune which had haunted her from the first.

The kingdom of Algiers was, she told them, tributary to the Turkish Sultan, who kept a guard of Janissaries there, from among whom they themselves elected the Dey. He was supposed to govern by the consent of a divan, but was practically as despotic as any Eastern sovereign; and the Aga of the Janissaries was next in authority to him. Piracy on the Mediterranean was, as all knew, the chief occupation of the Turks and Moors of any spirit or enterprise, a Turk being in authority in each vessel to secure that the Sultan had his share, and that the capture was so conducted as not to involve Turkey in dangerous wars with European powers. Capture by the Moors had for several centuries been one of the ordinary contingencies of a voyage, and the misfortune that had happened to the party was not at all an unusual one.

In 1687, however, the nuisance had grown to such a height that Admiral Du Quesne bombarded the town of Algiers, and destroyed all the fortifications, peace being only granted on condition that a French Consul should reside at Algiers, and that French ships and subjects should be exempt from this violence of the corsairs.

The like treaties existed with the English, but had been very little heeded by the Algerines till recently, when the possession of Gibraltar and Minorca had provided harbours for British ships, which exercised a salutary supervision over these Southern sea-kings. The last Dey, Baba Hali, had been a wise and prudent man, anxious to repress outrage, and to be on good terms with the two great European powers; but he had died in the spring of the current year, 1718, and the temper of his successor, Mehemed, had not yet been proved.

Madame de Bourke had some trust in the Dutch Reis, renegade though he was. She had given him her beautiful watch, set with brilliants, and he had taken it with a certain gruff reluctance, declaring that he did not want it,—he was ready enough to serve her without such a toy.

Nevertheless the lady thought it well to impress on each and all, in case of any separation or further disaster, that their appeal must be to the French Consul, explaining minutely the forms in which it should be made.

'I cannot tell you,' she said to Arthur, 'how great a comfort it is to me to have with me a gentleman, one of intelligence and education to whom I can confide my poor children. I know you will do your utmost to protect them and restore them to their father.'

'With my very heart's blood, Madame.'

'I hope that may not be asked of you, Monsieur,' she returned with a faint smile,—'though I fear there may be much of perplexity and difficulty in the way before again rejoining him. You see where I have placed our passports? My daughter knows it likewise; but in case of their being taken from you, or any other accident happening to you, I have written these two letters, which you had better bear about your person. One is, as you see, to our Consul at Algiers, and may serve as credentials; the other is to my husband, to whom I have already written respecting you.'

'A thousand thanks, Madame,' returned Arthur. 'But I hope and trust we may all reach M. le Comte in safety together. You yourself said that you expected only a brief detention before he could be communicated with, and this captain, renegade though he be, evidently has a respect for you.'

'That is quite true,' she returned, 'and it may only be my foolish heart that forebodes evil; nevertheless, I cannot but recollect that c'est l'imprevu qui arrive.'

'Then, Madame, that is the very reason there should be no misfortune,' returned Arthur.

It was on the second day after the capture of the tartane that the sun set in a purple angry-looking bank of cloud, and the sea began to heave in a manner which renewed the earlier distresses of the voyage to such as were bad sailors. The sails both of the corsair and of the tartane were taken in, and it was plain that a rough night was to be expected. The children were lashed into their berths, and all prepared themselves to endure. The last time Arthur saw Madame de Bourke's face, by the light of the lamp swinging furiously from the cabin roof, as he assisted in putting in the dead lights, it bore the same fixed expression of fortitude and resignation as when she was preparing to be boarded by the pirates.

He remained on deck, but it was very perilous, for the vessel was so low in the water that the waves dashed over it so wildly that he could hardly help being swept away. It was pitch dark, too, and the lantern of the other vessel could only just be seen, now high above their heads, now sinking in the trouble of the sea, while the little tartane was lifted up as though on a mountain; and in a kind of giddy dream, he thought of falling headlong upon her deck. Finally he found himself falling. Was he washed overboard? No; a sharp blow showed him that he had only fallen down the hatchway, and after lying still a moment, he heard the voices of Lanty and Hebert, and presently they were all tossed together by another lurch of the ship.

It was a night of miseries that seemed endless, and when a certain amount of light appeared, and Arthur and Lanty crawled upon deck, the tempest was unabated. They found themselves still dashed, as if their vessel were a mere cork, on the huge waves; rushes of water coming over them, whether from sea or sky there was no knowing, for all seemed blended together in one mass of dark lurid gray; and where was the Algerine ship—so lately their great enemy, now watched for as their guide and guardian?

It was no place nor time for questions, even could they have been heard or understood. It was scarcely possible even to be heard by one another, and it was some time before they convinced themselves that the large vessel had disappeared. The cable must have parted in the night, and they were running with bare poles before the gale; the seamanship of the man at the helm being confined to avoiding the more direct blows of the waves, on the huge crests of which the little tartane rode—gallantly perhaps in mariners' eyes, but very wretchedly to the feelings of the unhappy landsmen within her.

Arthur thought of St. Paul, and remembered with dismay that it was many days before sun or moon appeared. He managed to communicate his recollection to Lanty, who exclaimed, 'And he was a holy man, and he was a prisoner too. He will feel for us if any man can in this sore strait! Sancte Paule, ora pro nobis. An' haven't I got the blessed scapulary about me neck that will bring me through worse than this?'

The three managed to get down to tell the unfortunate inmates of the cabin what was the state of things, and to carry them some food, though at the expense of many falls and severe blows; and almost all of them were too faint or nauseated to be able to swallow such food as could survive the transport under such circumstances. Yet high-spirited little Estelle entreated to be carried on deck, to see what a storm was like. She had read of them so often, and wanted to see as well as to feel. She was almost ready to cry when Arthur assured her it was quite impossible, and her mother added a grave order not to trouble him.

Madame de Bourke looked so exhausted by the continual buffeting and the closeness of the cabin, and her voice was so weak, that Arthur grieved over the impossibility of giving her any air. Julienne tried to make her swallow some eau de vie; but the effort of steadying her hand seemed too much for her, and after a terrible lurch of the ship, which lodged the poor bonne in the opposite corner of the cabin, the lady shook her head and gave up the attempt. Indeed, she seemed so worn out that Arthur—little used to the sight of fainting—began to fear that her forebodings of dying before she could rejoin her husband were on the point of being realised.

However, the gale abated towards evening, and the youth himself was so much worn out that the first respite was spent in sleep. When he awoke, the sea was much calmer, and the eastern sun was rising in glory over it; the Turks, with their prayer carpets in a line, were simultaneously kneeling and bowing in prayer, with their faces turned towards it. Lanty uttered an only too emphatic curse upon the misbelievers, and Arthur vainly tried to make him believe that their 'Allah il Allah' was neither addressed to Mohammed nor the sun.

'Sure and if not, why did they make their obeisance to it all one as the Persians in the big history-book Master Phelim had at school?'

'It's to the east they turn Lanty, not to the sun.'

'And what right have the haythen spalpeens to turn to the east like good Christians?'

''Tis to their Prophet's tomb they look, at Mecca.'

'There, an' I tould you they were no better than haythens,' returned Lanty, 'to be praying and knocking their heads on the bare boards—that have as much sense as they have—to a dead man's tomb.'

Arthur's Scotch mind thought the Moors might have had the best of it in argument when he recollected Lanty's trust in his scapulary.

They tried to hold a conversation with the Reis, between lingua Franca and the Provencal of the renegade; and they came to the conclusion that no one had the least idea where they were, or where they were going; the ship's compass had been broken in the boarding, and there was no chart more available than the little map in the beginning of Estelle's precious copy of Telemaque. The Turkish Reis did not trouble himself about it, but squatted himself down with his chibouque, abandoning all guidance of the ship, and letting her drift at the will of wind and wave, or, as he said, the will of Allah. When asked where he thought she was going, he replied with solemn indifference, 'Kismet;' and all the survivors of the crew—for one had been washed overboard—seemed to share his resignation.

The only thing he did seem to care for was that if the infidel woman chose to persist in coming on deck, the canvas screen—which had been washed overboard—should be restored. This was done, and Madame de Bourke was assisted to a couch that had been prepared for her with cloaks, where the air revived her a little; but she listened with a faint smile to the assurances of Arthur, backed by Hebert, that this abandonment to fate gave the best chance. They might either be picked up by a Christian vessel or go ashore on a Christian coast; but Madame de Bourke did not build much on these hopes. She knew too well what were the habits of wreckers of all nations, to think that it would make much difference whether they were driven on the coast of Sicily or of Africa—'barring,' as Lanty said, 'that they should get Christian burial in the former case.'

'We are in the hands of a good God. That at least we know,' said the Countess. 'And He can hear us through, whether for life in Paradise, or trial a little longer here below.'

'Like Blandina,' observed Estelle.

'Ah! my child, who knows whether trials like even that blessed saint's may not be in reserve even for your tender age. When I think of these miserable men, who have renounced their faith, I see what fearful ordeals there may be for those who fall into the hands of those unbelievers. Strong men have yielded. How may it not be with my poor children?'

'God made Blandina brave, mamma. I will pray that He may make me so.'

Land was in sight at last. Purple mountains rose to the south in wild forms, looking strangely thunderous and red in the light of the sinking sun. A bay, with rocks jutting out far into the sea, seemed to embrace them with its arms. Soundings were made, and presently the Reis decided on anchoring. It was a rocky coast, with cliffs descending into the sea, covered with verdure, and the water beneath was clear as glass.

'Have we escaped the Syrtes to fall upon AEneas' cave?' murmured Arthur to himself.

'And if we could meet Queen Dido, or maybe Venus herself, 'twould be no bad thing!' observed Lanty, who remembered his Virgil on occasion. 'For there's not a drop of wather left barring eau de vie, and if these Moors get at that, 'tis raving madmen they would be.'

'Do they know where we are?' asked Arthur.

'Sorrah a bit!' returned Lanty, 'tho' 'tis a pretty place enough. If my old mother was here, 'tis her heart would warm to the mountains.'

'Is it Calypso's Island?' whispered Ulysse to his sister.

'See, what are they doing?' cried Estelle. 'There are people—don't you see, white specks crowding down to the water.'

There was just then a splash, and two bronzed figures were seen setting forth from the tartane to swim to shore. The Turkish Reis had despatched them, to ascertain whether the vessel had drifted, and who the inhabitants might be.

A good while elapsed before one of these scouts returned. There was a great deal of talk and gesticulating round him, and Lanty, mingling with it, brought back word that the place was the Bay of Golo, not far from Djigheli, and just beyond the Algerine frontier. The people were Cabeleyzes, a wild race of savage dogs, which means dogs according the Moors, living in the mountains, and independent of the Dey. A considerable number rushed to the coast, armed, and in great numbers, perceiving the tartane to be an Italian vessel, and expecting a raid by Sicilian robbers on their cattle; but the Moors had informed them that it was no such thing, but a prize taken in the name of the Dey of Algiers, in which an illustrious French Bey's harem was being conveyed to Algiers. From that city the tartane was now about a day's sail, having been driven to the eastward of it during the storm. 'The Turkish commander evidently does not like the neighbourhood,' said Arthur, 'judging by his gestures.'

'Dogs and sons of dogs are the best names he has for them,' rejoined Lanty.

'See! They have cut the cable! Are we not to wait for the other man who swam ashore?'

So it was. A favourable wind was blowing, and the Reis, being by no means certain of the disposition of the Cabeleyzes, chose to leave them behind him as soon as possible, and make his way to Algiers, which began to appear to his unfortunate passengers like a haven of safety.

They were not, however, out of the bay when the wind suddenly veered, and before the great lateen sail could be reefed, it had almost caused the vessel to be blown over. There was a pitching and tossing almost as violent as in the storm, and then wind and current began carrying the tartane towards the rocky shore. The Reis called the men to the oars, but their numbers were too few to be availing, and in a very few minutes more the vessel was driven hopelessly towards a mass of rocks.

Arthur, the Abbe, Hebert, and Lanty were all standing together at the head of the vessel. The poor Abbe seemed dazed, and kept dreamily fingering his rosary, and murmuring to himself. The other three consulted in a low voice.

'Were it not better to have the women here on deck?' asked Arthur.

'Eh, non!' sobbed Master Hebert. 'Let not my poor mistress see what is coming on her and her little ones!'

'Ah! and 'tis better if the innocent creatures must be drowned, that it should be without being insensed of it till they wake in our Lady's blessed arms,' added Lanty. 'Hark! and they are at their prayers.'

But just then Victorine rushed up from below, and throwing her arms round Lanty, cried, 'Oh! Laurent, Laurent. It is not true that it is all over with us, is it? Oh! save me! save me!'

'And if I cannot save you, mine own heart's core, we'll die together,' returned the poor fellow, holding her fast. 'It won't last long, Victorine, and the saints have a hold of my scapulary.'

He had scarcely spoken when, lifted upon a wave, the tartane dashed upon the rocks, and there was at once a horrible shivering and crashing throughout her—a frightful mingling of shrieks and yells of despair with the wild roar of the waves that poured over her. The party at the head of the vessel were conscious of clinging to something, and when the first burly-burly ceased a little they found themselves all together against the bulwark, the vessel almost on her beam ends, wedged into the rocks, their portion high and dry, but the stern, where the cabin was, entirely under water.

Victorine screamed aloud, 'My lady! my poor lady.'

'I see—I see something,' cried Arthur, who had already thrown off his coat, and in another moment he had brought up Estelle in his arms, alive, sobbing and panting. Giving her over to the steward, he made another dive, but then was lost sight of, and returned no more, nor was anything to be seen of the rest. Shut up in the cabin, Madame de Bourke, Ulysse, and the three maids must have been instantly drowned, and none of the crew were to be seen. Maitre Hebert hold the little girl in his arms, glad that, though living, she was only half-conscious. Victorine, sobbing, hung heavily on Lanty, and before he could free his hands he perceived to his dismay that the Abbe, unassisted, was climbing down from the wreck upon the rock, scarcely perhaps aware of his danger.

Lanty tried to put Victorine aside, and called out, 'Your reverence, wait—Masther Phelim, wait till I come and help you.' But the girl, frantic with terror, grappled him fast, screaming to him not to let her go—and at the same moment a wave broke over the Abbe. Lanty, almost wild, was ready to leap into it after him, thinking he must be sucked back with it, but behold! he still remained clinging to the rock. Instinct seemed to serve him, for he had stuck his knife into the rock and was holding on by it. There seemed no foothold, and while Lanty was deliberating how to go to his assistance, another wave washed him off and bore him to the next rock, which was only separated from the mainland by a channel of smoother water. He tried to catch at a floating plank, but in vain; however, an oar next drifted towards him, and by it he gained the land, but only to be instantly surrounded by a mob of Cabeleyzes, who seemed to be stripping off his garments. By this time many were swimming towards the wreck; and Estelle, who had recovered breath and senses, looked over Hebert's shoulder at them. 'The savages! the infidels!' she said. 'Will they kill me? or will they try to make me renounce my faith? They shall kill me rather than make me yield.'

'Ah! yes, my dear demoiselle, that is right. That is the only way. It is my resolution likewise,' returned Hebert. 'God give us grace to persist.'

'My mamma said so,' repeated the child. 'Is she drowned, Maitre Hebert?'

'She is happier than we are, my dear young lady.'

'And my little brother too! Ah! then I shall remember that they are only sending me to them in Paradise.'

By this time the natives were near the wreck, and Estelle, shuddering, clung closer to Hebert; but he had made up his mind what to do. 'I must commit you to these men, Mademoiselle,' he said; 'the water is rising—we shall perish if we remain here.'

'Ah! but it would not hurt so much to be drowned,' said Estelle, who had made up her mind to Blandina's chair.

'I must endeavour to save you for your father, Mademoiselle, and your poor grandmother! There! be a good child! Do not struggle.'

He had attracted the attention of some of the swimmers, and he now flung her to them. One caught her by an arm, another by a leg, and she was safely taken to the shore, where at once a shoe and a stocking were taken from her, in token of her becoming a captive; but otherwise her garments were not meddled with; in which she was happier than her uncle, whom she found crouched up on a rock, stripped almost to the skin, so that he shrank from her, when she sprang to his side amid the Babel of wild men and women, who were shouting in exultation and wonder over his big flapped hat, his soutane and bands, pointing at his white limbs and yellow hair—or, what amazed them even more, Estelle's light, flaxen locks, which hung soaked around her. She felt a hand pulling them to see whether anything so strange actually grew on her head, and she turned round to confront them with a little gesture of defiant dignity that evidently awed them, for they kept their hands off her, and did not interfere as she stood sentry over her poor shivering uncle.

Lanty was by this time trying to drag Victorine over the rocks and through the water. The poor Parisienne was very helpless, falling, hurting herself, and screaming continually; and trebly, when a couple of natives seized upon her, and dragged her ashore, where they immediately snatched away her mantle and cap, pulled off her gold chain and cross, and tore out her earrings with howls of delight.

Lanty, struggling on, was likewise pounced upon, and bereft of his fine green and gold livery coat and waistcoat, which, though by no means his best, and stained with the sea water, were grasped with ecstasy, quarrelled over, and displayed in triumph. The steward had secured a rope by which he likewise reached the shore, only to become the prey of the savages, who instantly made prize of his watch and purse, as well as of almost all his garments. The five unfortunate survivors would fain have remained huddled together, but the natives pointing to some huts on the hillside, urged them thither by the language of shouts and blows.

'Faith and I'm not an ox,' exclaimed Lanty, as if the fellow could have understood him, 'and is it to the shambles you're driving me?'

'Best not resist! There's nothing for it but to obey them,' said the steward, 'and at least there will be shelter for the child.'

No objection was made to his lifting her in his arms, and he carried her, as the party, half-drowned, nearly starved and exhausted, stumbled on along the rocky paths which cut their feet cruelly, since their shoes had all been taken from them. Lanty gave what help he could to the Abbe and Victorine, who were both in a miserable plight, but ere long he was obliged to take his turn in carrying Estelle, whose weight had become too much for the worn out Hebert. He was alarmed to find, on transferring her, that her head sank on his shoulder as if in a sleep of exhaustion, which, however, shielded her from much terror. For, as they arrived at a cluster of five or six tents, built of clay and the branches of trees, out rushed a host of women, children, and large fierce dogs, all making as much noise as they were capable of. The dogs flew at the strange white forms, no doubt utterly new to them. Victorine was severely bitten, and Lanty, trying to rescue her, had his leg torn.

These two were driven into one hut; Estelle, who was evidently considered as the greatest prize, was taken into another and rather better one, together with the steward and the Abbe. The Moors, who had swum ashore, had probably told them that she was the Frankish Bey's daughter; for this, miserable place though it was, appeared to be the best hut in the hamlet, nor was she deprived of her clothes. A sort of bournouse or haik, of coarse texture and very dirty, was given to each of the others, and some rye cakes baked in the ashes. Poor little Estelle turned away her head at first, but Hebert, alarmed at her shivering in her wet clothes, contrived to make her swallow a little, and then took off the soaked dress, and wrapped her in the bournouse. She was by this time almost unconscious from weariness, and made no resistance to the unaccustomed hands, or the disgusting coarseness and uncleanness of her wrapper, but dropped asleep the moment he laid her down, and he applied himself to trying to dry her clothes at a little fire of sticks that had been lighted outside the open space, round which the huts stood.

The Abbe too had fallen asleep, as Hebert managed to assure poor Lanty, who rushed out of the other tent, nearly naked, and bloodstained in many places, but more concerned at his separation from his foster-brother than at anything else that had befallen him. Men, women, children, and dogs were all after him, supposing him to be trying to escape, and he was seized upon and dragged back by main force, but not before the steward had called out—

'M. l'Abbe sleeps—sleeps sound—he is not hurt! For Heaven's sake, Laurent, be quiet—do not enrage them! It is the only hope for him, as for Mademoiselle and the rest of us.'

Lanty, on hearing of the Abbe's safety, allowed himself to be taken back, making himself, however, a passive dead weight on his captor's hands.

'Arrah,' he muttered to himself, 'if ye will have me, ye shall have the trouble of me, bad luck to you. 'Tis little like ye are to the barbarous people St. Paul was thrown with; but then what right have I to expect the treatment of a holy man, the like of him? If so be, I can save that poor orphan that's left, and bring off Master Phelim safe, and save poor Victorine from being taken for some dirty spalpeen's wife, when he has half a dozen more to the fore—'tis little it matters what becomes of Lanty Callaghan; they might give him to their big brutes of dogs, and mighty lean meat they would find him!'

So came down the first night upon the captives.



CHAPTER V—CAPTIVITY

'Hold fast thy hope and Heaven will not Forsake thee in thine hour. Good angels will be near thee, And evil ones will fear thee, And Faith will give thee power.'

SOUTHEY.

The whole northern coast of Africa is inhabited by a medley of tribes, all owning a kind of subjection to the Sultan, but more in the sense of Pope than of King. The part of the coast where the tartane had been driven on the rocks was beneath Mount Araz, a spur of the Atlas, and was in the possession of the Arab tribe called Cabeleyze, which is said to mean 'the revolted.' The revolt had been from the Algerine power, which had never been able to pursue them into the fastnesses of the mountains, and they remained a wild independent race, following all those Ishmaelite traditions and customs that are innate in the blood of the Arab.

When Estelle awoke from her long sleep of exhaustion, she was conscious of a stifling atmosphere, and moreover of the crow of a cock in her immediate vicinity, then of a dog growling, and a lamb beginning to bleat. She raised herself a little, and beheld, lying on the ground around her, dark heaps with human feet protruding from them. These were interspersed with sheep, goats, dogs, and fowls, all seen by the yellow light of the rising sun which made its way in not only through the doorless aperture, but through the reeds and branches which formed the walls.

Close as the air was, she felt the chill of the morning and shivered. At the same moment she perceived poor Maitre Hebert covering himself as best he could with a dirty brown garment, and bending over her with much solicitude, but making signs to make as little noise as possible, while he whispered, 'How goes it with Mademoiselle?'

'Ah,' said Estelle, recollecting herself, 'we are shipwrecked. We shall have to confess our faith! Where are the rest?'

'There is M. l'Abbe,' said Hebert, pointing to a white pair of the bare feet. 'Poor Laurent and Victorine have been carried elsewhere.'

'And mamma? And my brother?'

'Ah! Mademoiselle, give the good God thanks that he has spared them our trial.'

'Mamma! Ah, she was in the cabin when the water came in? But my brother! I had hold of his hand, he came out with me. I saw M. Arture swim away with him. Yes, Maitre Hebert, indeed I did.'

Hebert had not the least hope that they could be saved, but he would not grieve the child by saying so, and his present object was to get her dressed before any one was awake to watch, and perhaps appropriate her upper garments. He was a fatherly old man, and she let him help her with her fastenings, and comb out her hair with the tiny comb in her etui. Indeed, friseurs were the rule in France, and she was not unused to male attendants at the toilette, so that she was not shocked at being left to his care.

For the rest, the child had always dwelt in an imaginary world, a curious compound of the Lives of the Saints and of Telemaque. Martyrs and heroes alike had been shipwrecked, taken captive, and tormented; and there was a certain sense of realised day-dream about her, as if she had become one of the number and must act up to her part. She asked Hebert if there were a Sainte Estelle, what was the day of the month, and if she should be placed in the Calendar if she never complained, do what these barbarians might to her. She hoped she should hold out, for she would like to be able to help all whom she loved, poor papa and all. But it was hard that mamma, who was so good, could not be a martyr too; but she was a saint in Paradise all the same, and thus Estelle made her little prayer in hope. There was no conceit or over confidence in the tone, though of course the poor child little knew what she was ready to accept; but it was a spark of the martyr's trust that gleamed in her eye, and gave her a sense of exaltation that took off the sharpest edge of grief and fear.

By this time, however, the animals were stirring, and with them the human beings who had lain down in their clothes. Peace was over; the Abbe awoke, and began to call for Laurent and his clothes and his beads; but this aroused the master of the house, who started up, and threatening with a huge stick, roared at him what must have been orders to be quiet.

Estelle indignantly flew between and cried, 'You shall not hurt my uncle.'

The commanding gesture spoke for itself; and, besides, poor Phelim cowered behind her with an air that caused a word and sign to pass round, which the captives found was equivalent to innocent or imbecile; and the Mohammedan respect and tenderness for the demented spared him all further violence or molestation, except that he was lost and miserable without the attentions of his foster-brother; and indeed the shocks he had undergone seemed to have mobbed him of much of the small degree of sense he had once possessed.

Coming into the space before the doorway, Estelle found herself the object of universal gaze and astonishment, as her long fair hair gleamed in the sunshine, every one coming to touch it, and even pull it to see if it was real. She was a good deal frightened, but too high-spirited to show it more than she could help, as the dark-skinned, bearded men crowded round with cries of wonder. The other two prisoners likewise appeared: Victorine looking wretchedly ill, and hardly able to hold up her head; Lanty creeping towards the Abbe, and trying to arrange his remnant of clothing. There was a short respite, while the Arabs, all turning eastwards, chanted their morning devotions with a solemnity that struck their captives. The scene was a fine one, if there had been any heart to admire. The huts were placed on the verge of a fine forest of chestnut and cork trees—and beyond towered up mountain peaks in every variety of dazzling colour—red and purple beneath, glowing red and gold where the snowy peaks caught the morning sun, lately broken from behind them. The slopes around were covered with rich grass, flourishing after the summer heats, and to which the herds were now betaking themselves, excepting such as were detained to be milked by the women, who came pouring out of some of the other huts in dark blue garments; and in front, still shadowed by the mountain, lay the bay, deep, beautiful, pellucid green near the land, and shut in by fantastic and picturesque rocks—some bare, some clothed with splendid foliage, winter though it was—while beyond lay the exquisite blue stretching to the horizon. Little recked the poor prisoners of the scene so fair; they only saw the remnant of the wreck below, the sea that parted them from hope, the savage rocks behind, the barbarous people around, the squalor and dirt of the adowara, as the hamlet was called.

{Estelle: p96.jpg}

Comparatively, the Moor who had swum ashore to reconnoitre seemed like a friend when he came forward and saluted Estelle and the Abbe respectfully. Moreover the lingua Franca Lanty had picked up established a very imperfect double system of interpretation by the help of many gestures. This was Lanty's explanation to the rest: in French, of course, but, like all his speech, Irish-English in construction.

'This Moor, Hassan, wants to stand our friend in his own fashion, but he says they care not the value of an empty mussel-shell for the French, and no more for the Dey of Algiers than I do for the Elector of Hanover. He has told them that M. l'Abbe and Mademoiselle are brother and daughter to a great Bey—but it is little they care for that. Holy Virgin, they took Mademoiselle for a boy! That is why they are gazing at her so impudently. Would that I could give them a taste of my cane! Do you see those broken walls, and a bit of a castle on yonder headland jutting out into the sea? They are bidding Hassan say that the French built that, and garrisoned it with the help of the Dey; but there fell out a war, and these fellows, or their fathers, surprised it, sacked it, and carried off four hundred prisoners into slavery. Holy Mother defend us! Here are all the rogues coming to see what they will do with us!'

For the open space in front of the huts, whence all the animals had now been driven, was becoming thronged with figures with the haik laid over their heads, spear or blunderbuss in hand, fine bearing, and sometimes truculent, though handsome, browse countenances. They gazed at the captives, and uttered what sounded like loud hurrahs or shouts; but after listening to Hassan, Lanty turned round trembling. 'The miserables! Some are for sacrificing us outright on the spot, but this decent man declares that he will make them sensible that their prophet was not out-and-out as bad as that. Never you fear, Mademoiselle.'

'I am not afraid,' said Estelle, drawing up her head. 'We shall be martyrs.'

Lanty was engaged in listening to a moan from his foster-brother for food, and Hebert joined in observing that they might as well be sacrificed as starved to death; whereupon the Irishman's words and gesticulations induced the Moor to make representations which resulted in some dry pieces of samh cake, a few dates, and a gourd of water being brought by one of the women; a scanty amount for the number, even though poor Victorine was too ill to touch anything but the water; while the Abbe seemed unable to understand that the servants durst not demand anything better, and devoured her share and a quarter of Lanty's as well as his own. Meantime the Cabeleyzes had all ranged themselves in rows, cross-legged on the ground, opposite to the five unfortunate captives, to sit in judgment on them. As they kept together in one group, happily in the shade of a hut, Victorine, too faint and sick fully to know what was going on, lay with her head on the lap of her young mistress, who sat with her bright and strangely fearless eyes confronting the wild figures opposite.

Her uncle, frightened, though not comprehending the extent of his danger, crouched behind Lanty, who with Hebert stood somewhat in advance, the would-be guardians of the more helpless ones.

There was an immense amount of deafening shrieking and gesticulating among the Arabs. Hassan was responding, and finally turned to Lanty, when the anxious watchers could perceive signs as if of paying down coin made interrogatively. 'Promise them anything, everything,' cried Hebert; 'M. le Comte would give his last sou—so would Madame la Marquise—to save Mademoiselle.'

'I have told him so,' said Laurence presently; 'I bade him let them know it is little they can make of us, specially now they have stripped us as bare as themselves, the rascals! but that their fortunes would be made—and little they would know what to do with them—if they would only send M. l'Abbe and Mademoiselle to Algiers safe and sound. There! he is trying to incense them. Never fear, Master Phelim, dear, there never was a rogue yet, black or white, or the colour of poor Madame's frothed chocolate, who did not love gold better than blood, unless indeed 'twas for the sweet morsel of revenge; and these, for all their rolling eyes and screeching tongues, have not the ghost of a quarrel with us.'

'My beads, my breviary,' sighed the Abbe. 'Get them for me, Lanty.'

'I wish they would end it quickly,' said Estelle. 'My head aches so, and I want to be with mamma. Poor Victorine! yours is worse,' she added, and soaked her handkerchief in the few drops of water left in the gourd to lay it on the maid's forehead.

The howling and shrieking betokened consultation, but was suddenly interrupted by some half-grown lads, who came running in with their hands full of what Lanty recognised to his horror as garments worn by his mistress and fellow-servants, also a big kettle and a handspike. They pointed down to the sea, and with yells of haste and exultation all the wild conclave started up to snatch, handle, and examine, then began rushing headlong to the beach. Hassan's explanations were scarcely needed to show that they were about to ransack the ship, and he evidently took credit to himself for having induced them to spare the prisoners in case their assistance should be requisite to gain full possession of the plunder.

Estelle and Victorine were committed to the charge of a forbidding-looking old hag, the mother of the sheyk of the party; the Abbe was allowed to stray about as he pleased, but the two men were driven to the shore by the eloquence of the club. Victorine revived enough for a burst of tears and a sobbing cry, 'Oh, they will be killed! We shall never see them again!'

'No,' said Estelle, with her quiet yet childlike resolution, 'they are not going to kill any of us yet. They said so. You are so tired, poor Victorine! Now all the hubbub is over, suppose you lie still and sleep. My uncle,' as he roamed round her, mourning for his rosary, 'I am afraid your beads are lost; but see here, these little round seeds, I can pierce them if you will gather some more for me, and make you another set. See, these will be the Aves, and here are shells in the grass for the Paters.'

The long fibre of grass served for the string, and the sight of the Giaour girl's employment brought round her all the female population who had not repaired to the coast. Her first rosary was torn from her to adorn an almost naked baby; but the Abbe began to whimper, and to her surprise the mother restored it to him. She then made signs that she would construct another necklace for the child, and she was rewarded by a gourd being brought to her full of milk, which she was able to share with her two companions, and which did something to revive poor Victorine. Estelle was kept threading these necklaces and bracelets all the wakeful hours of the day—for every one fell asleep about noon—though still so jealous a watch was kept on her that she was hardly allowed to shift her position so as to get out of the sun, which even at that season was distressingly scorching in the middle of the day.

Parties were continually coming up from the beach laden with spoils of all kinds from the wreck, Lanty, Hebert, and a couple of negroes being driven up repeatedly, so heavily burthened as to be almost bent double. All was thrown down in a heap at the other end of the adowara, and the old sheyk kept guard over it, allowing no one to touch it. This went on till darkness was coming on, when, while the cattle were being collected for the night, the prisoners were allowed an interval, in which Hebert and Lanty told how the natives, swimming like ducks, had torn everything out of the wreck: all the bales and boxes that poor Maitre Hebert had secured with so much care, and many of which he was now forced himself to open for the pleasure of these barbarians.

That, however, was not the worst. Hebert concealed from his little lady what Lanty did not spare Victorine. 'And there—enough to melt the heart of a stone—there lay on the beach poor Madame la Comtesse, and all the three. Good was it for you, Victorine, my jewel, that you were not in the cabin with them.'

'I know not,' said the dejected Victorine; 'they are better off than we?'

'You would not say so, if you had seen what I have,' said Lanty, shuddering. 'The dogs!—they cut off Madame's poor white fingers to get at her rings, and not with knives either, lest her blessed flesh should defile them, they said, and her poor face was an angel's all the time. Nay, nor that was not the worst. The villainous boys, what must they do but pelt the poor swollen bodies with stones! Ay, well you may scream, Victorine. We went down on our knees, Maitre Hebert and I, to pray they might let us give them burial, but they mocked us, and bade Hassan say they never bury dogs. I went round the steeper path, for all the load at my back, or I should have been flying at the throats of the cowardly vultures, and then what would have become of M. l'Abbe?'

Victorine trembled and wept bitterly for her companions, and then asked if Lanty had seen the corpse of the little Chevalier.

'Not a sight of him or M. Arthur either,' returned Lanty; 'only the ugly face of the old Turk captain and another of his crew, and them they buried decently, being Moslem hounds like themselves; while my poor lady that is a saint in heaven—' and he, too, shed tears of hot grief and indignation, recovering enough to warn Victorine by no means to let the poor young girl know of this additional horror.

There was little opportunity, for they had been appropriated by different masters: Estelle, the Abbe, and Hebert to the sheyk, or headman of the clan; and Lanty and Victorine to a big, strong, fierce-looking fellow, of inferior degree but greater might.

This time Estelle was to be kept for the night among the sheyk's women, who, though too unsophisticated to veil their faces, had a part of the hut closed off with a screen of reeds, but quite as bare as the outside. Hebert, who could not endure to think of her sleeping on the ground, and saw a large heap of grass or straw provided for a little brown cow, endeavoured to take an armful for her. Unluckily it belonged to Lanty's master, Eyoub, who instantly flew at him in a fury, dragged him to a log of wood, caught up an axe, and had not Estelle's screams brought up the sheyk, with Hassan and one or two other men, the poor Maitre d'Hotel's head would have been off. There was a sharp altercation between the sheyk and Eyoub, while Estelle held the faithful servant's hand, saying, 'You did it for me! Oh, Hebert, do not make them angry again. It would be beautiful to die for one's faith, but not for a handful of hay.'

'Ah! my dear demoiselle, what would my poor ladies say to see you sleeping on the bare ground in a filthy hut?'

'I slept well last night,' returned Estelle; 'indeed, I do not mind! It is only the more like the dungeon at Lyon, you know! And I pray you, Hebert, do not get yourself killed for nothing too soon, or else we shall not all stand out and confess together, like St. Blandina and St. Ponticus and St Epagathius.'

'Alas, the dear child! The long names run off her tongue as glibly as ever,' sighed Hebert, who, though determined not to forsake his faith, by no means partook her enthusiasm for martyrdom. Hassan, however, having explained what the purpose had been, Hebert was pardoned, though the sheyk scornfully observed that what was good enough for the daughters of a Hadji was good enough for the unclean child of the Frankish infidels.

The hay might perhaps have spared a little stiffness, but it would not have ameliorated the chief annoyances—the closeness, the dirt, and the vermin. It was well that it was winter, or the first of these would have been far worse, and, fortunately for Estelle, she was one of those whom suffocating air rather lulls than rouses.

Eyoub's hovel did not rejoice in the refinement of a partition, but his family, together with their animals, lay on the rocky floor as best they might; and Victorine's fever came on again, so that she lay in great misery, greeted by a growl from a great white dog whenever she tried to relieve her restless aching limbs by the slightest movement, or to reach one of the gourds of water laid near the sleepers, like Saul's cruse at his pillow.

Towards morning, however, Lanty, who had been sitting with his back against the wall, awoke from the sleep well earned by acting as a beast of burthen. The dog growled a little, but Lanty—though his leg still showed its teeth-marks—had made friends with it, and his hand on its head quieted it directly, so that he was able cautiously to hand a gourd to Victorine. The Arabs were heavy sleepers, and the two were able to talk under their breath; as, in reply to a kind word from Lanty, poor Victorine moaned her envy of the fate of Rosette and Babette; and he, with something of their little mistress's spirit, declared that he had no doubt but that 'one way or the other they should be out of it: either get safe home, or be blessed martyrs, without even a taste of purgatory.'

'Ah! but there's worse for me,' sighed Victorine. 'This demon brought another to stare in my face—I know he wants to make me his wife! Kill me first, Laurent.'

'It is I that would rather espouse you, my jewel,' returned a tender whisper.

'How can you talk of such things at such a moment?'

''Tis a pity M. l'Abbe is not a priest,' sighed Lanty. 'But, you know, Victorine, who is the boy you always meant to take.'

'You need not be so sure of that,' she said, the coy coquetry not quite extinct.

'Come, as you said, it is no time for fooling. Give me your word and troth to be my wife so soon as we have the good luck to come by a Christian priest by our Lady's help, and I'll outface them all—were it Mohammed the Prophet himself, that you are my espoused and betrothed, and woe to him that puts a finger on you.'

'You would only get yourself killed.'

'And would not I be proud to be killed for your sake? Besides, I'll show them cause not to kill me if I have the chance. Trust me, Victorine, my darling—it is but a chance among these murdering villains, but it is the only one; and, sure, if you pretended to turn the back of your hand to me when there were plenty of Christian men to compliment you, yet you would rather have poor Lanty than a thundering rogue of a pagan Mohammedan.'

'I hope I shall die,' sighed poor Victorine faintly. 'It will only be your death!'

'That is my affair,' responded Lanty. 'Come, here's daylight coming in; reach me your hand before this canaille wakes, and here's this good beast of a dog, and yonder grave old goat with a face like Pere Michel's for our witnesses—and by good luck, here's a bit of gilt wire off my shoulder-knot that I've made into a couple of rings while I've been speaking.'

The strange betrothal had barely taken place before there was a stir, and what was no doubt a yelling imprecation on the 'dog Giaours' for the noise they made.

The morning began as before, with the exception that Estelle had established a certain understanding with a little chocolate-coloured cupid of a boy of the size of her brother, and his lesser sister, by letting them stroke her hair, and showing them the mysteries of cat's cradle. They shared their gourd of goat's-milk with her, but would not let her give any to her companions. However, the Abbe had only to hold out his hand to be fed, and the others were far too anxious to care much about their food.

A much larger number of Cabeleyzes came streaming into the forum of the adowara, and the prisoners were all again placed in a row, while the new- comers passed before them, staring hard, and manifestly making personal remarks which perhaps it was well that they did not understand. The sheyk and Eyoub evidently regarded them as private property, stood in front, and permitted nobody to handle them, which was so far a comfort.

Then followed a sort of council, with much gesticulation, in which Hassan took his share. Then, followed by the sheyk, Eyoub, and some other headmen, he advanced, and demanded that the captives should become true believers. This was eked out with gestures betokening that thus they would be free, in that case; while, if they refused, the sword and the smouldering flame were pointed to, while the whole host loudly shouted 'Islam!'

Victorine trembled, sobbed, tried to hide herself; but Estelle stood up, her young face lighted up, her dark eyes gleaming, as if she were realising a daydream, as she shook her head, cried out to Lanty, 'Tell him, No—never!' and held to her breast a little cross of sticks that she had been forming to complete her uncle's rosary. Her gesture was understood. A man better clad than the rest, with a turban and a broad crimson sash, rushed up to her, seized her by the hair, and waved his scimitar over her head. The child felt herself close to her mother. She looked up in his face with radiant eyes and a smile on her lips. It absolutely daunted the fellow: his arm dropped, and he gazed at her like some supernatural creature; and the sheyk, enraged at the interference with his property, darted forth to defend it, and there was a general wrangling.

Seconded by their interpreter, Hassan, who knew that the Koran did not prescribe the destruction of Christians, Hebert and Lanty endeavoured to show that their conversion was out of the question, and that their slaughter would only be the loss of an exceedingly valuable ransom, which would be paid if they were handed over safe and sound and in good condition.

There was no knowing what was the effect of this, for the council again ended in a rush to secure the remaining pillage of the wreck. Hebert and Lanty dreaded what they might see, but to their great relief those poor remains had disappeared. They shuddered as they remembered the hyenas' laughs and the jackals' howls they had heard at nightfall; but though they hoped that the sea had been merciful, they could even have been grateful to the animals that had spared them the sight of conscious insults.

The wreck was finally cleared, and among the fragments were found several portions of books. These the Arabs disregarded, being too ignorant even to read their own Koran, and yet aware of the Mohammedan scruple which forbids the destruction of any scrap of paper lest it should bear the name of Allah. Lanty secured the greater part of the Abbe's breviary, and a good many pages of Estelle's beloved Telemaque; while the steward gained possession of his writing case, and was permitted to retain it when the Cabeleyzes, glutted with plunder, had ascertained that it contained nothing of value to them.

After everything had been dragged up to the adowara, there ensued a sort of auction or division of the plunder. Poor Maitre Hebert was doomed to see the boxes and bales he had so diligently watched broken open by these barbarians,—nay, he had to assist in their own dissection when the secrets were too much for the Arabs. There was the King of Spain's portrait rent from its costly setting and stamped upon as an idolatrous image. The miniature of the Count, worn by the poor lady, had previously shared the same fate, but that happily was out of sight and knowledge. Here was the splendid plate, presented by crowned heads, howled over by savages ignorant of its use. The silver they seemed to value; but there were three precious gold cups which the salt water had discoloured, so that they were taken for copper and sold for a very small price to a Jew, who somehow was attracted to the scene, 'like a raven to the slaughter,' said Lanty.

This man likewise secured some of the poor lady's store of rich dresses, but a good many more were appropriated to make sashes for the men, and the smaller articles, including stockings, were wound turban fashion round the children's heads.

Lanty could not help observing, 'And if the saints are merciful to us, and get us out of this, we shall have stories to tell that will last our lives!' as he watched the solemn old chief smelling to the perfumes, swallowing the rouge as splendid medicine, and finally fingering a snuff- box, while half a dozen more crowded round to assist in the opening, and in another moment sneezing, weeping, tingling, dancing frantically about, vituperating the Christian's magic.

This gave Lanty an idea. A little round box lay near, which, as he remembered, contained a Jack-in-the-box, or Polichinelle, which the poor little Chevalier had bought at the fair at Tarascon. This he contrived to secrete and hand to Victorine. 'Keep the secret,' he said, 'and you will find your best guardian in that bit of a box.' And when that very evening an Arab showed some intentions of adding her to his harem, Victorine bethought herself of the box, and unhooked in desperation. Up sprang Punch, long-nosed and fur-capped, right in the bearded face.

Back the man almost fell; 'Shaitan, Shaitan!' was the cry, as the inhabitants tumbled pell-mell out of the hovel, and Victorine and Punch remained masters of the situation.

She heard Lanty haranguing in broken Arabic and lingua Franca, and presently he came in, shaking with suppressed laughter. 'If ever we get home,' said he, 'we'll make a pilgrimage to Tarascon! Blessings on good St. Martha that put that sweet little imp in my way! The rogues think he is the very genie that the fisherman let out of the bottle in Mademoiselle's book of the Thousand and One Nights, and thought to see him towering over the whole place. And a fine figure he would be with his hook nose and long beard. They sent me to beg you fairly to put up your little Shaitan again. I told them that Shaitan, as they call him, is always in it when there's meddling between an espoused pair—which is as true as though the Holy Father at Rome had said it—and as long as they were civil, Shaitan would rest; but if they durst molest you, there was no saying where he would be, if once you had to let him out! To think of the virtue of that ugly face and bit of a coil of wire!'

Meantime Hebert, having ascertained that both the Jew and Hassan were going away, the one to Constantina, the other to Algiers, wrote, and so did Estelle, to the Consul at Algiers, explaining their position and entreating to be ransomed. Though only nine years old, Estelle could write a very fair letter, and the amazement of the Arabs was unbounded that any female creature should wield a pen. Marabouts and merchants were known to read the Koran, but if one of the goats had begun to write, their wonder could hardly have been greater; and such crowds came to witness the extraordinary operation that she could scarcely breathe or see.

It seemed to establish her in their estimation as a sort of supernatural being, for she was always treated with more consideration than the rest of the captives, never deprived of the clothes she wore, and allowed to appropriate a few of the toilette necessaries that were quite incomprehensible to those around her.

She learnt the names for bread, chestnuts, dates, milk, and water, and these were never denied to her; and her little ingenuities in nursery games won the goodwill of the women and children around her, though others used to come and make ugly faces at her, and cry out at her as an unclean thing. The Abbe was allowed to wander about at will, and keep his Hours, with Estelle to make the responses, and sometimes Hebert. He was the only one that might visit the other two captives; Lanty was kept hard at work over the crop of chestnuts that the clan had come down from their mountains to gather in; and poor Victorine, who was consumed by a low fever, and almost too weak to move, lay all day in the dreary and dirty hut, expecting, but dreading death.

Some days later there was great excitement, shouting, and rage. It proved that the Bey of Constantina had sent to demand the party, threatening to send an armed force to compel their surrender; but, alas! the hope of a return to comparative civilisation was instantly quashed, for the sheyk showed himself furious. He and Eyoub stood brandishing their scimitars, and with eyes flashing like a panther's in the dark, declaring that they were free, no subjects of the Dey nor the Bey either; and that they would shed the blood of every one of the captives rather than yield them to the dogs and sons of dogs at Constantina.

This embassy only increased the jealousy with which the prisoners were guarded. None of them were allowed to stir without a man with a halbert, and they had the greatest difficulty in entrusting a third letter to the Moor in command of the party. Indeed, it was only managed by Estelle's coaxing of the little Abou Daoud, who was growing devoted to her, and would do anything for the reward of hearing her sing life Malbrook s'en va-t'-n guerre.

It might have been in consequence of this threat of the Bey, much as they affected to despise it, that the Cabeleyzes prepared to return to the heights of Mount Araz, whence they had only descended during the autumn to find fresh pasture for their cattle, and to collect dates and chestnuts from the forest.

'Alas!' said Hubert, 'this is worse than ever. As long as we were near the sea, I had hope, but now all trace of us will be lost, even if the Consul should send after us.'

'Never fear, Maitre Hubert,' said Estelle; 'you know Telemaque was a prisoner and tamed the wild peasants in Egypt.'

'Ah! the poor demoiselle, she always seems as if she were acting a comedy.'

This was happily true. Estelle seemed to be in a curious manner borne through the dangers and discomforts of her surroundings by a strange dreamy sense of living up to her part, sometimes as a possible martyr, sometimes as a figure in the mythological or Arcadian romance that had filtered into her nursery.



CHAPTER VI—A MOORISH VILLAGE

'Our laws and our worship on thee thou shalt take, And this shalt thou first do for Zulema's sake.'

SCOTT.

When Arthur Hope dashed back from the party on the prow of the wrecked tartane in search of little Ulysse, he succeeded in grasping the child, but at the same moment a huge breaker washed him off the slipperily-sloping deck, and after a scarce conscious struggle he found himself, still retaining his clutch of the boy, in the trough between it and another. He was happily an expert swimmer, and holding the little fellow's clothes in his teeth, he was able to avoid the dash, and to rise on another wave. Then he perceived that he was no longer near the vessel, but had been carried out to some little distance, and his efforts only succeeded in keeping afloat, not in approaching the shore. Happily a plank drifted so near him that he was able to seize it and throw himself across it, thus obtaining some support, and being able to raise the child farther above the water.

At the same time he became convinced that a strong current, probably from a river or stream, was carrying him out to sea, away from the bay. He saw the black heads of two or three of the Moorish crew likewise floating on spars, and yielding themselves to the stream, and this made him better satisfied to follow their example. It was a sort of rest, and gave him time to recover from the first exhaustion to convince himself that the little boy was not dead, and to lash him to the plank with a handkerchief.

By and by—he knew not how soon—calls and shouts passed between the Moors; only two seemed to survive, and they no longer obeyed the direction of the current, but turned resolutely towards the land, where Arthur dimly saw a green valley opening towards the sea. This was a much severer effort, but by this time immediate self-preservation had become the only thought, and happily both wind and the very slight tide were favourable, so that, just as the sun sank beneath the western waves, Arthur felt foothold on a sloping beach of white sand, even as his powers became exhausted. He struggled up out of reach of the sea, and then sank down, exhausted and unconscious.

His first impression was of cries and shrieks round him, as he gasped and panted, then saw as in a dream forms flitting round him, and then—feeling for the child and missing him—he raised himself in consternation, and the movement was greeted by fresh unintelligible exclamations, while a not unkindly hand lifted him up. It belonged to a man in a sort of loose white garment and drawers, with a thin dark-bearded face; and Arthur, recollecting that the Spanish word nino passed current for child in lingua Franca, uttered it with an accent of despairing anxiety. He was answered with a volley of words that he only understood to be in a consoling tone, and the speaker pointed inland. Various persons, among whom Arthur saw his recent shipmates, seemed to be going in that direction, and he obeyed his guide, though scarcely able to move from exhaustion and cold, the garments he had retained clinging about him. Some one, however, ran down towards him with a vessel containing a draught of sour milk. This revived him enough to see clearly and follow his guides. After walking a distance, which appeared to him most laborious, he found himself entering a sort of village, and was ushered through a courtyard into a kind of room. In the centre a fire was burning; several figures were busy round it, and in another moment he perceived that they were rubbing, chafing, and otherwise restoring his little companion.

Indeed Ulysse had just recovered enough to be terribly frightened, and as his friend's voice answered his screams, he sprang from the kind brown hands, and, darting on Arthur, clung to him with face hidden on his shoulder. The women who had been attending to him fell back as the white stranger entered, and almost instantly dry clothes were brought, and while Arthur was warming himself and putting them on, a little table about a foot high was set, the contents of a cauldron of a kind of soup which had been suspended over the fire were poured into a large round green crock, and in which all were expected to dip their spoons and fingers. Little Ulysse was exceedingly amazed, and observed that ces gens were not bien eleves to eat out of the dish; but he was too hungry to make any objection to being fed with the wooden spoon that had been handed to Arthur; and when the warm soup, and the meat floating in it, had refreshed them, signs were made to them to lie down on a mat within an open door, and both were worn out enough to sleep soundly.

It was daylight when Arthur was awakened by poor little Ulysse sitting up and crying out for his bonne, his mother, and sister, 'Oh! take me to them,' he cried; 'I do not like this dark place.'

For dark the room was, being windowless, though the golden sunlight could be seen beyond the open doorway, which was under a sort of cloister or verandah overhung by some climbing plant. Arthur, collecting himself, reminded the child how the waves had borne them away from the rest, with earnest soothing promises of care, and endeavouring to get back to the rest. 'Say your prayers that God will take care of you and bring you back to your sister,' Arthur added, for he did not think it possible that the child's mother should have been saved from the waves; and his heart throbbed at thoughts of his promise to the poor lady.

'But I want my bonne,' sighed Ulysse; 'I want my clothes. This is an ugly robe de nuit, and there is no bed.'

'Perhaps we can find your clothes,' said Arthur. 'They were too wet to be kept on last night.'

So they emerged into the court, which had a kind of farmyard appearance; women with rows of coins hanging over their brows were milking cows and goats, and there was a continuous confusion of sound of their voices, and the lowing and bleating of cattle. At the appearance of Arthur and the boy, there was a general shout, and people seemed to throng in to gaze at them, the men handsome, stately, and bearded, with white full drawers, and a bournouse laid so as first to form a flat hood over the head, and then belted in at the waist, with a more or less handsome sash, into which were stuck a spoon and knife, and in some cases one or two pistols. They did not seem ill-disposed, though their language was perfectly incomprehensible. Ulysse's clothes were lying dried by the hearth and no objection was made to his resuming them. Arthur made gestures of washing or bathing, and was conducted outside the court, to a little stream of pure water descending rapidly to the sea. It was so cold that Ulysse screamed at the touch, as Arthur, with more spectators than he could have desired, did his best to perform their toilettes. He had divested himself of most of his own garments for the convenience of swimming, but his pockets were left and a comb in them; and though poor Mademoiselle Julienne would have been shocked at the result of his efforts, and the little silken laced suit was sadly tarnished with sea water, Ulysse became such an astonishing sight that the children danced round him, the women screamed with wonder, and the men said 'Mashallah!' The young Scotsman's height was perhaps equally amazing, for he saw them pointing up to his head as if measuring his stature.

He saw that he was in a village of low houses, with walls of unhewn stone, enclosing yards, and set in the midst of fruit-trees and gardens. Though so far on in the autumn there was a rich luxuriant appearance; roots and fruits, corn and flax, were laid out to dry, and girls and boys were driving the cattle out to pasture. He could not doubt that he had landed among a settled and not utterly uncivilised people, but he was too spent and weary to exert himself, or even to care for much beyond present safety; and had no sooner returned to his former quarters, and shared with Ulysse a bowl of curds, than they both feel asleep again in the shade of the gourd plant trained on a trellised roof over the wall.

When he next awoke, Ulysse was very happily at play with some little brown children, as if the sports of childhood defied the curse of Babel, and a sailor from the tartane was being greeted by the master of the house. Arthur hoped that some communication would now be possible, but, unfortunately, the man knew very little of the lingua Franca of the Mediterranean, and Arthur knew still less. However, he made out that he was the only one of the shipwrecked crew who had managed to reach the land, and that this was a village of Moors—settled agricultural Moors, not Arabs, good Moslems—who would do him no harm. This, and he pointed to a fine-looking elderly man, was the sheyk of the village, Abou Ben Zegri, and if the young Giaours would conform to the true faith all would be salem with them. Arthur shook his head, and tried by word and sign to indicate his anxiety for the rest of his companions. The sailor threw up his hands, and pointed towards the sea, to show that he believed them to be all lost; but Arthur insisted that five—marking them off on his fingers—were on gebal, a rock, and emphatically indicated his desire of reaching them. The Moor returned the word 'Cabeleyzes,' with gestures signifying throat-cutting and slavery, also that these present hosts regarded them as banditti. How far off they were it was not possible to make out, for of course Arthur's own sensations were no guide; but he knew that the wreck had taken place early in the afternoon, and that he had come on shore in the dusk, which was then at about five o'clock. There was certainly a promontory, made by the ridge of a hill, and also a river between him and any survivors there might be.

This was all that he could gather, and he was not sure of even thus much, but he was still too much wearied and battered for any exertion of thought or even anxiety. Three days' tempest in a cockle-shell of a ship, and then three hours' tossing on a plank, had left him little but the desire of repose, and the Moors were merciful and let him alone. It was a beautiful place—that he already knew. A Scot, and used to the sea- coast, his eye felt at home as it ranged to the grand heights in the dim distance, with winter caps of snow, and shaded in the most gorgeous tints of colouring forests beneath, slopes covered with the exquisite green of young wheat. Autumn though it was, the orange-trees, laden with fruit, the cork-trees, ilexes, and fan-palms, gave plenty of greenery, shading the gardens with prickly pear hedges; and though many of the fruit-trees had lost their leaves, fig, peach, and olive, and mulberry, caper plants, vines with foliage of every tint of red and purple, which were trained over the trellised courts of the houses, made everything have a look of rural plenty and peace, most unlike all that Arthur had ever heard or imagined of the Moors, who, as he owned to himself, were certainly not all savage pirates and slave-drivers. The whole within was surrounded by a stone wall, with a deep horse-shoe-arched gateway, the fields and pastures lying beyond with some more slightly-walled enclosures meant for the protection of the flocks and herds at night.

He saw various arts going on. One man was working in iron over a little charcoal fire, with a boy to blow up his bellows, and several more were busied over some pottery, while the women alternated their grinding between two mill stones, and other domestic cares, with spinning, weaving, and beautiful embroidery. To Arthur, who looked on, with no one to speak to except little Ulysse, it was strangely like seeing the life of the Israelites in the Old Testament when they dwelt under their own vines and fig-trees—like reading a chapter in the Bible, as he said to himself, as again and again he saw some allusion to Eastern customs illustrated. He was still more struck—when, after the various herds of kine, sheep, and goats, with one camel, several asses, and a few slender- limbed Barbary horses had been driven in for the night—by the sight of the population, as the sun sank behind the mountains, all suspending whatever they were about, spreading their prayer carpets, turning eastwards, performing their ablutions, and uttering their brief prayer with one voice so devoutly that he was almost struck with awe.

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