'Are they saying their prayers?' whispered Ulysse, startled by the instant change in his play-fellows, and as Arthur acquiesced, 'Then they are good.'
'If it were the true faith,' said Arthur, thinking of the wide difference between this little fellow and Estelle; but though not two years younger, Ulysse was far more childish than his sister, and when she was no longer present to lead him with her enthusiasm, sank at once to his own level. He opened wide his eyes at Arthur's reply, and said, 'I do not see their idols.'
'They have none,' said Arthur, who could not help thinking that Ulysse might look nearer home for idols—but chiefly concerned at the moment to keep the child quiet, lest he should bring danger on them by interruption.
They were sitting in the embowered porch of the sheyk's court when, a few seconds after the villagers had risen up from their prayer, they saw a figure enter at the village gateway, and the sheyk rise and go forward. There were low bending in salutation, hands placed on the breast, then kisses exchanged, after which the Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri went out with the stranger, and great excitement and pleasure seemed to prevail among the villagers, especially the women. Arthur heard the word 'Yusuf' often repeated, and by the time darkness had fallen on the village, the sheyk ushered the guest into his court, bringing with him a donkey with some especially precious load—which was removed; after which the supper was served as before in the large low apartment, with a handsomely tiled floor, and an opening in the roof for the issue of the smoke from the fire, which became agreeable in the evening at this season. Before supper, however, the stranger's feet and hands were washed by a black slave in Eastern fashion; and then all, as before, sat on mats or cushions round the central bowl, each being furnished with a spoon and thin flat soft piece of bread to dip into the mess of stewed kid, flakes of which might be extracted with the fingers.
The women, who had fastened a piece of linen across their faces, ran about and waited on the guests, who included three or four of the principal men of the village, as well as the stranger, who, as Arthur observed, was not of the uniform brown of the rest, but had some colour in his cheeks, light eyes, and a ruddy beard, and also was of a larger frame than these Moors, who, though graceful, lithe, and exceedingly stately and dignified, hardly reached above young Hope's own shoulder. Conversation was going on all the time, and Arthur soon perceived that he was the subject of it. As soon as the meal was over, the new-comer addressed him, to his great joy, in French. It was the worst French imaginable—perhaps more correctly lingua Franca, with a French instead of an Arabic foundation, but it was more comprehensible than that of the Moorish sailor, and bore some relation to a civilised language; besides which there was something indescribably familiar in the tone of voice, although Arthur's good French often missed of being comprehended.
'Son of a great man? Ambassador, French!' The greatness seemed impressed, but whether ambassador was understood was another thing, though it was accepted as relating to the boy.
'Secretary to the Ambassador' seemed to be an equal problem. The man shook his head, but he took in better the story of the wreck, though, like the sailor, he shook his head over the chance of there being any survivors, and utterly negatived the idea of joining them. The great point that Arthur tried to convey was that there would be a very considerable ransom if the child could be conveyed to Algiers, and he endeavoured to persuade the stranger, who was evidently a sort of travelling merchant, and, as he began to suspect, a renegade, to convey them thither; but he only got shakes of the head as answers, and something to the effect that they were a good deal out of the Dey's reach in those parts, together with what he feared was an intimation that they were altogether in the power of Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri.
They were interrupted by a servant of the merchant, who came to bring him some message as well as a pipe and tobacco. The pipe was carried by a negro boy, at sight of whom Ulysse gave a cry of ecstasy, 'Juba! Juba! Grandmother's Juba! Why do not you speak to me?' as the little black, no bigger than Ulysse himself, grinned with all his white teeth, quite uncomprehending.
'Ah! my poor laddie,' exclaimed Arthur in his native tongue, which he often used with the boy, 'it is only another negro. You are far enough from home.'
The words had an astonishing effect on the merchant. He turned round with the exclamation, 'Ye'll be frae Scotland!'
'And so are you!' cried Arthur, holding out his hand.
'Tak tent, tak tent,' said the merchant hastily, yet with a certain hesitation, as though speaking a long unfamiliar tongue. 'The loons might jalouse our being overfriendly thegither.'
Then he returned to the sheyk, to whom he seemed to be making explanations, and presenting some of his tobacco, which probably was of a superior quality in preparation to what was grown in the village. They solemnly smoked together and conversed, while Arthur watched them anxiously, relieved that he had found an interpreter, but very doubtful whether a renegade could be a friend, even though he were indeed a fellow- countryman.
It was not till several pipes had been consumed, and the village worthies had, with considerable ceremony, taken leave, that the merchant again spoke to Arthur. 'I'll see ye the morn; I hae tell'd the sheyk we are frae the same parts. Maybe I can serve you, if ye ken what's for your guid, but I canna say mair the noo.'
The sheyk escorted him out of the court, for he slept in one of the two striped horse-hair tents, which had been spread within the enclosures belonging to the village, around which were tethered the mules and asses that carried his wares. Arthur meanwhile arranged his little charge for the night.
He felt that among these enemies to their faith he must do what was in his power to keep up that of the child, and not allow his prayers to be neglected; but not being able to repeat the Latin forms, and thinking them unprofitable to the boy himself, he prompted the saying of the Creed and Lord's Prayer in English, and caused them to be repeated after him, though very sleepily and imperfectly.
All the men of the establishment seemed to take their night's rest on a mat, wrapped in a bournouse, wherever they chanced to find themselves, provided it was under shelter; the women in some penetralia beyond a doorway, though they were not otherwise secluded, and only partially veiled their faces at sight of a stranger. Arthur had by this time made out that the sheyk, who was a very handsome man over middle-age, seemed to have two wives; one probably of his own age, and though withered up into a brown old mummy, evidently the ruler at home, wearing the most ornaments, and issuing her orders in a shrill, cracked tone. There was a much younger and handsome one, the mother apparently of two or three little girls from ten or twelve years old to five, and there was a mere girl, with beautiful melancholy gazelle-like eyes, and a baby in her arms. She wore no ornaments, but did not seem to be classed with the slaves who ran about at the commands of the elder dame.
However, his own position was a matter of much more anxious care, although he had more hope of discovering what it really was.
He had, however, to be patient. The sunrise orisons were no sooner paid than there was a continual resort to the tent of the merchant, who was found sitting there calmly smoking his long pipe, and ready to offer the like, also a cup of coffee, to all who came to traffic with him. He seemed to have a miscellaneous stock of coffee, tobacco, pipes, preparations of sugar, ornaments in gold and silver, jewellery, charms, pistols, and a host of other articles in stock, and to be ready to purchase or barter these for the wax, embroidered handkerchiefs, yarn, and other productions and manufactures of the place. Not a single purchase could be made on either side without a tremendous haggling, shouting, and gesticulating, as if the parties were on the verge of coming to blows; whereas all was in good fellowship, and a pleasing excitement and diversion where time was of no value to anybody. Arthur began to despair of ever gaining attention. He was allowed to wander about as he pleased within the village gates, and Ulysse was apparently quite happy with the little children, who were beautiful and active, although kept dirty and ragged as a protection from the evil eye.
Somehow the engrossing occupation of every one, especially of the only two creatures with whom he could converse, made Arthur more desolate than ever. He lay down under an ilex, and his heart ached with a sick longing he had not experienced since he had been with the Nithsdales, for his mother and his home—the tall narrow-gabled house that had sprung up close to the grim old peel tower, the smell of the sea, the tinkling of the burn. He fell asleep in the heat of the day, and it was to him as if he were once more sitting by the old shepherd on the braeside, hearing him tell the old tales of Johnnie Armstrong or Willie o' the wudspurs.
Actually a Scottish voice was in his ears, as he looked up and saw the turbaned head of Yusuf the merchant bending over him, and saying—'Wake up, my bonny laddie; we can hae our crack in peace while these folks are taking their noonday sleep. Awed, and where are ye frae, and how do you ca' yersel'?'
'I am from Berwickshire,' responded the youth, and as the man started—'My name is Arthur Maxwell Hope of Burnside.'
'Eh! No a son of auld Sir Davie?'
'His youngest son.'
The man clasped his hands, and uttered a strange sound as if in the extremity of amazement, and there was a curious unconscious change of tone, as he said—'Sir Davie's son! Ye'll never have heard tell of Partan Jeannie?' he added.
'A very old fishwife,' said Arthur, 'who used to come her rounds to our door? Was she of kin to you?'
'My mither, sir. Mony's the time I hae peepit out on the cuddie's back between the creels at the door of the braw house of Burnside, and mony's the bannock and cookie the gude lady gied me. My minnie'll no be living thae noo,' he added, not very tenderly.
'I should fear not,' said Arthur. 'I had not seen or heard of her for some time before I left home, and that is now three years since. She looked very old then, and I remember my mother saying she was not fit to come her rounds.'
'She wasna that auld,' returned the merchant gravely; 'but she had led sic a life as falls to the lot of nae wife in this country.'
Arthur had almost said, 'Whose fault was that?' but he durst not offend a possible protector, and softened his words into, 'It is strange to find you here, and a Mohammedan too.'
'Hoots, Maister Arthur, let that flea stick by the wa'. We maun do at Rome as Rome does, as ye'll soon find'—and disregarding Arthur's exclamation—'and the bit bairn, I thocht ye said he was no Scot, when I was daundering awa' at the French yestreen.'
'No, he is half-Irish, half-French, eldest son of Count Burke, a good Jacobite, who got into trouble with the Prince of Orange, and is high in the French service.'
'And what gars your father's son to be secretaire, as ye ca'd it, to Frenchman or Irishman either?'
'Well, it was my own fault. I was foolish enough to run away from school to join the rising for our own King's—'
'Eh, sirs! And has there been a rising on the Border side against the English pock puddings? Oh, gin I had kenned it!'
Yusuf's knowledge of English politics had been dim at the best, and he had apparently left Scotland before even Queen Anne was on the throne. When he understood Arthur's story, he communicated his own. He had been engaged in a serious brawl with some English fishers, and in fear of the consequences had fled from Eyemouth, and after casting about as a common sailor in various merchant ships, had been captured by a Moorish vessel, and had found it expedient to purchase his freedom by conversion to Islam, after which his Scottish shrewdness and thrift had resulted in his becoming a prosperous itinerant merchant, with his headquarters at Bona. He expressed himself willing and anxious to do all he could for his young countryman; but it would be almost impossible to do so unless Arthur would accept the religion of his captors; and he explained that the two boys were the absolute property of the tribe, who had discovered and rescued them when going to the seashore to gather kelp for the glass work practised by the Moors in their little furnaces.
'Forsake my religion? Never!' cried Arthur indignantly.
'Saftly, saftly,' said Yusuf; 'nae doot ye trow as I did that they are a' mere pagans and savage heathens, worshipping Baal and Ashtaroth, but I fand myself quite mista'en. They hae no idols, and girn at the blinded Papists as muckle as auld Deacon Shortcoats himsel'.'
'I know that,' threw in Arthur.
'Ay, and they are a hantle mair pious and devout than ever a body I hae seen in Eyemouth, or a' the country side to boot; forbye, my minnie's auld auntie, that sat graning by the ingle, and ay banned us when we came ben. The meneester himsel' dinna gae about blessing and praying over ilka sma' matter like the meenest of us here, and for a' the din they make at hame about the honorable Sabbath, wha thinks of praying five times the day? While as for being the waur for liquor, these folks kenna the very taste of it. Put yon sheyk down on the wharf at Eyemouth, and what wad he say to the Christian folk there?'
A shock of conviction passed over Arthur, though he tried to lose it in indignant defence; but Yusuf did not venture to stay any longer with him, and bidding him think over what had been said, since slavery or Islam were the only alternatives, returned to the tents of merchandise.
First thoughts with the youth had of course been of horror at the bare idea of apostacy, and yet as he watched his Moorish hosts, he could not but own to himself that he never had dreamt that to be among them would be so like dwelling under the oak of Mamre, in the tents of Abraham. From what he remembered of Partan Jeannie's reputation as a being only tolerated and assisted by his mother, on account of her extreme misery and destitution, he could believe that the ne'er-do-weel son, who must have forsaken her before he himself was born, might have really been raised in morality by association with the grave, faithful, and temperate followers of Mohammed, rather than the scum of the port of Eyemouth.
For himself and the boy, what did slavery mean? He hoped to understand better from Yusuf, and at any rate to persuade the man to become the medium of communication with the outside world, beyond that 'dissociable ocean,' over which his wistful gaze wandered. Then the ransom of the little Chevalier de Bourke would be certain, and, if there were any gratitude in the world, his own. But how long would this take, and what might befall them in the meantime?
Ulysse all this time seemed perfectly happy with the small Moors, who all romped together without distinction of rank, of master, slave or colour, for Yusuf's little negro was freely received among them. At night, however, Ulysse's old home self seemed to revive; he crept back to Arthur, tired and weary, fretting for mother, sister, and home; and even after he had fallen asleep, waking again to cry for Julienne. Poor Arthur, he was a rough nurse, but pity kept him patient, and he was even glad to see that the child had not forgotten his home.
Meantime, ever since the sunset prayer, there had been smoking of pipes and drinking of coffee, and earnest discussion between the sheyk and the merchant, and by and by Yusuf came and sat himself down by Arthur, smiling a little at the young man's difficulty in disposing of those long legs upon the ground.
'Ye'll have to learn this and other things, sir,' said he, as he crossed his own under him, Eastern fashion; but his demeanour was on the whole that of the fisher to the laird's son, and he evidently thought that he had a grand proposal to make, for which Master Arthur ought to be infinitely obliged.
He explained to Arthur that Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri had never had more than two sons, and that both had been killed the year before in trying to recover their cattle from the Cabeleyzes, 'a sort of Hieland caterans.'
The girl whom Arthur had noticed was the widow of the elder of the two, and the child was only a daughter. The sheyk had been much impressed by Arthur's exploit in swimming or floating round the headland and saving the child, and regarded his height as something gigantic. Moreover, Yusuf had asserted that he was son to a great Bey in his own country, and in consequence Abou Ben Zegri was willing to adopt him as his son, provided he would embrace the true faith, and marry Ayesha, the widow.
'And,' said Yusuf, 'these women are no that ill for wives, as I ken owre weel'—and he sighed. 'I had as gude and douce a wee wifie at Bona as heart culd wish, and twa bonny bairnies; but when I cam' back frae my rounds, the plague had been there before me. They were a' gone, even Ali, that had just began to ca' me Ab, Ab, and I hae never had heart to gang back to the town house. She was a gude wife—nae flying, nae rampauging. She wad hae died wi' shame to be likened to thae randy wives at hame. Ye might do waur than tak' such a fair offer, Maister Arthur.'
'You mean it all kindly,' said Arthur, touched; 'but for nothing—no, for nothing, can a Christian deny his Lord, or yield up his hopes for hereafter.'
'As for that,' returned Yusuf, 'the meneester and Beacon Shortcoats, and my auld auntie, and the lave of them, aye ca'ed me a vessel of destruction. That was the best name they had for puir Tam. So what odds culd it mak, if I took up with the Prophet, and I was ower lang leggit to row in a galley? Forbye, here they say that a man who prays and gies awmous, and keeps frae wine, is sicker to win to Paradise and a' the houris. I had rather it war my puir Zorah than any strange houri of them a'; but any way, I hae been a better man sin' I took up wi' them than ever I was as a cursing, swearing, drunken, fechting sailor lad wha feared neither God nor devil.'
'That was scarce the fault of the Christian faith,' said Arthur.
'Aweel, the first answer in the Shorter Carritch was a' they ever garred me learn, and that is what we here say of Allah. I see no muckle to choose, and I ken ane thing,—it is a hell on earth at ance gin ye gang not alang wi' them. And that's sicker, as ye'll find to your cost, sir, gin ye be na the better guided.'
'With hope, infinite hope beyond,' said Arthur, trying to fortify himself. 'No, I cannot, cannot deny my Lord—my Lord that bought me!'
'We own Issa Ben Mariam for a Prophet,' said Yusuf.
'But He is my only Master, my Redeemer, and God. No, come what may, I can never renounce Him,' said Arthur with vehemence.
'Wed, awed,' said Yusuf, 'maybe ye'll see in time what's for your gude. I'll tell the sheyk it would misbecome your father's son to do sic a deed owre lichtly, and strive to gar him wait while I am in these parts to get your word, and nae doot it will be wiselike at the last.'
CHAPTER VII—MASTER AND SLAVE
'I only heard the reckless waters roar, Those waves that would not hear me from the shore; I only marked the glorious sun and sky Too bright, too blue for my captivity, And felt that all which Freedom's bosom cheers, Must break my chain before it dried my tears.'
BYRON (The Corsair).
At the rate at which the traffic in Yusuf's tent proceeded, Arthur Hope was likely to have some little time for deliberation on the question presented to him whether to be a free Moslem sheyk or a Christian slave.
Not only had almost every household in El Arnieh to chaffer with the merchant for his wares and to dispose of home-made commodities, but from other adowaras and from hill-farms Moors and Cabyles came in with their produce of wax, wool or silk, to barter—if not with Yusuf, with the inhabitants of El Arnieh, who could weave and embroider, forge cutlery, and make glass from the raw material these supplied. Other Cabyles, divers from the coast, came up, with coral and sponges, the latter of which was the article in which Yusuf preferred to deal, though nothing came amiss to him that he could carry, or that could carry itself—such as a young foal; even the little black boy had been taken on speculation—and so indeed had the big Abyssinian, who, though dumb, was the most useful, ready, and alert of his five slaves. Every bargain seemed to occupy at least an hour, and perhaps Yusuf lingered the longer in order to give Arthur more time for consideration; or it might be that his native tongue, once heard, exercised an irresistible fascination over him. He never failed to have what he called a 'crack' with his young countryman at the hour of the siesta, or at night, perhaps persuading the sheyk that it was controversial, though it was more apt to be on circumstances of the day's trade or the news of the Border-side. Controversy indeed there could be little with one so ignorant as kirk treatment in that century was apt to leave the outcasts of society, nor had conversion to Islam given him much instruction in its tenets; so that the conversation generally was on earthly topics, though it always ended in assurances that Master Arthur would suffer for it if he did not perceive what was for his good. To which Arthur replied to the effect that he must suffer rather than deny his faith; and Yusuf, declaring that a wilful man maun have his way, and that he would rue it too late, went off affronted, but always returned to the charge at the next opportunity.
Meantime Arthur was free to wander about unmolested and pick up the language, in which, however, Ulysse made far more rapid progress, and could be heard chattering away as fast, if not as correctly, as if it were French or English. The delicious climate and the open-air life were filling the little fellow with a strength and vigour unknown to him in a Parisian salon, and he was in the highest spirits among his brown playfellows, ceasing to pine for his mother and sister; and though he still came to Arthur for the night, or in any trouble, it was more and more difficult to get him to submit to be washed and dressed in his tight European clothes, or to say his prayers. He was always sleepy at night and volatile in the morning, and could not be got to listen to the little instructions with which Arthur tried to arm him against Mohammedanism into which the poor little fellow was likely to drift as ignorantly and unconsciously as Yusuf himself.
And what was the alternative? Arthur himself never wavered, nor indeed actually felt that he had a choice; but the prospect before him was gloomy, and Yusuf did not soften it. The sheyk would sell him, and he would either be made to work in some mountain-farm, or put on board a galley; and Yusuf had sufficient experience of the horrors of the latter to assure him emphatically that the gude leddy of Burnside would break her heart to think of her bonny laddie there.
'It would more surely break her heart to think of her son giving up his faith,' returned Arthur.
As to the child, the opinion of the tribe seemed to be that he was just fit to be sent to the Sultan to be bred as a Janissary. 'He will come that gate to be as great a man as in his ain countree,' said Yusuf; 'wi' horse to ride, and sword to bear, and braws to wear, like King Solomon in all his glory.'
'While his father and mother would far rather he were lying dead with her under the waves in that cruel bay,' returned Arthur.
'Hout, mon, ye dinna ken what's for his gude, nor for your ain neither,' retorted Yusuf.
'Good here is not good hereafter.'
'The life of a dog and waur here,' muttered Yusuf; 'ye'll mind me when it is too late.'
'Nay, Yusuf, if you will only take word of our condition to Algiers, we shall—at least the boy—be assuredly redeemed, and you would win a high reward.'
'I am no free to gang to Algiers,' said Yusuf. 'I fell out with a loon there, one of those Janissaries that gang hectoring aboot as though the world were not gude enough for them, and if I hadna made the best of my way out of the toon, my pow wad be a worricow on the wa's of the tower.'
'There are French at Bona, you say. Remember, I ask you to put yourself in no danger, only to bear the tidings to any European,' entreated Arthur.
'And how are they to find ye?' demanded Yusuf. 'Abou Ben Zegri will never keep you here after having evened his gude-daughter to ye. He'll sell you to some corsair captain, and then the best that could betide ye wad be that a shot frae the Knights of Malta should make quick work wi' ye. Or look at the dumbie there, Fareek. A Christian, he ca's himsel', too, though 'tis of a by ordinar' fashion, such as Deacon Shortcoats would scarce own. I coft him dog cheap at Tunis, when his master, the Vizier, had had his tongue cut out—for but knowing o' some deed that suld ne'er have been done—and his puir feet bastinadoed to a jelly. Gin a' the siller in the Dey's treasury ransomed ye, what gude would it do ye after that?'
'I cannot help that—I cannot forsake my God. I must trust Him not to forsake me.'
And, as usual, Yusuf went off angrily muttering, 'He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar.'
Perhaps Arthur's resistance had begun more for the sake of honour, and instinctive clinging to hereditary faith, without the sense of heroism or enthusiasm for martyrdom which sustained Estelle, and rather with the feeling that inconstancy to his faith and his Lord would be base and disloyal. But, as the long days rolled on, if the future of toil and dreary misery developed itself before him, the sense of personal love and aid towards the Lord and Master whom he served grew upon him. Neither the gazelle-eyed Ayesha nor the prosperous village life presented any great temptation. He would have given them all for one bleak day of mist on a Border moss; it was the appalling contrast with the hold of a Moorish galley that at times startled him, together with the only too great probability that he should be utterly incapable of saving poor little Ulysse from unconscious apostacy.
Once Yusuf observed, that if he would only make outward submission to Moslem law, he might retain his own belief and trust in the Lord he seemed so much to love, and of whom he said more good than any Moslem did of the Prophet.
'If I deny Him, He will deny me,' said Arthur.
'And will na He forgive ane as is hard pressed?' asked Yusuf.
'It is a very different thing to go against the light, as I should be doing,' said Arthur, 'and what it might be for that poor bairn, whom Cod preserve.'
'And wow! sir. 'Tis far different wi' you that had the best of gude learning frae the gude leddy,' muttered Yusuf. 'My minnie aye needit me to sort the fish and gang her errands, and wad scarce hae sent me to scule, gin I wad hae gane where they girned at me for Partan Jeannie's wean, and gied me mair o' the tawse than of the hornbook. Gin the Lord, as ye ca' Him, had ever seemed to me what ye say He is to you, Maister Arthur, I micht hae thocht twice o'er the matter. But there's nae ganging back the noo. A Christian's life they harm na, though they mak' it a mere weariness to him; but for him that quits the Prophet, tearing the flesh wi' iron cleeks is the best they hae for him.'
This time Yusuf retreated, not as usual in anger, but as if the bare idea he had broached was too terrible to be dwelt upon. He had by the end of a fortnight completed all his business at El Arnieh, and Arthur, having by this time picked up enough of the language to make himself comprehensible, and to know fully what was set before him, was called upon to make his decision, so that either he might be admitted by regular ritual into the Moslem faith, and adopted by the sheyk, or else be advertised by Yusuf at the next town as a strong young slave.
Sitting in the gate among the village magnates, like an elder of old, Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri, with considerable grace and dignity, set the choice before the Son of the Sea in most affectionate terms, asking of him to become the child of his old age, and to heal the breach left by the swords of the robbers of the mountains.
The old man's fine dark eyes filled with tears, and there was a pathos in his noble manner that made Arthur greatly grieved to disappoint him, and sorry not to have sufficient knowledge of the language to qualify more graciously the resolute reply he had so often rehearsed to himself, expressing his hearty thanks, but declaring that nothing could induce him to forsake the religion of his fathers.
'Wilt thou remain a dog of an unbeliever, and receive the treatment of dogs?'
'I must,' said Arthur.
'The youth is a goodly youth,' said the sheyk; 'it is ill that his heart is blind. Once again, young man, Issa Ben Mariam and slavery, or Mohammed and freedom?'
'I cannot deny my Lord Christ.'
There was a pause. Arthur stood upright, with lips compressed, hands clasped together, while the sheyk and his companions seemed struck by his courage and high spirit. Then one of them—a small, ugly fellow, who had some pretensions to be considered the sheyk's next heir—cried, 'Out on the infidel dog!' and set the example of throwing a handful of dust at him. The crowd who watched around were not slow to follow the example, and Arthur thought he was actually being stoned; but the missiles were for the most part not harmful, only disgusting, blinding, and confusing. There was a tremendous hubbub of vituperation, and he was at last actually stunned by a blow, waking to find himself alone, and with hands and feet bound, in a dirty little shed appropriated to camels. Should he ever be allowed to see poor little Ulysse again, or to speak to Yusuf, in whom lay their only faint hope of redemption? He was helpless, and the boy was at the mercy of the Moors. Was he utterly forsaken?
It was growing late in the day, and he had had no food for many hours. Was he to be neglected and starved? At last he heard steps approaching, and the door was opened by the man who had led the assault on him, who addressed him as 'Son of an old ass—dog of a slave,' bade him stand up and show his height, at the same time cutting the cords that bound him. It was an additional pang that it was to Yusuf that he was thus to exhibit himself, no doubt in order that the merchant should carry a description of him to some likely purchaser. He could not comprehend the words that passed, but it was very bitter to be handled like a horse at a fair—doubly so that he, a Hope of Burnside, should thus be treated by Partan Jeannie's son.
There ensued outside the shrieking and roaring which always accompanied a bargain, and which lasted two full hours. Finally Yusuf looked into the hut, and roughly said in Arabic, 'Come over to me, dog; thou art mine. Kiss the shoe of thy master'—adding in his native tongue, 'For ance, sir. It maun be done before these loons.'
Certainly the ceremony would have been felt as less humiliating towards almost anybody else, but Arthur endured it; and then was led away to the tents beyond the gate.
'There, sir,' said Yusuf, 'it ill sorts your father's son to be in sic a case, but it canna be helpit. I culd na leave behind the bonny Scots tongue, let alane the gude Leddy Hope's son.'
'You have been very good to me, Yusuf,' said Arthur, his pride much softened by the merchant's evident sense of the situation. 'I know you mean me well, but the boy—'
'Hoots! the bairn is happy eno'. He will come to higher preferment than even you or I. Why, mon, an Aga of the Janissaries is as good as the Deuk himsel'.'
'Yusuf, I am very grateful—I believe you must have paid heavily to spare me from ill usage.'
'Ye may say that, sir. Forty piastres of Tunis, and eight mules, and twa pair of silver-mounted pistols. The extortionate rogue wad hae had the little dagger, but I stood out against that.'
'I see, I am deeply beholden,' said Arthur; 'but it would be tenfold better if you would take him instead of me!'
'What for suld I do that? He is nae countryman of mine—one side French and the other Irish. He is naught to me.'
'He is heir to a noble house,' waged Arthur. 'They will reward you amply for saving him.'
'Mair like to girn at me for a Moor. Na, na! Hae na I dune enough for ye, Maister Arthur—giving half my beasties, and more than half my silver? Canna ye be content without that whining bairn?'
'I should be a forsworn man to be content to leave the child, whose dead mother prayed me to protect him, and those who will turn him from her faith. See, now, I am a man, and can guard myself, by the grace of God; but to leave the poor child here would be letting these men work their will on him ere any ransom could come. His mother would deem it giving him up to perdition. Let me remain here, and take the helpless child. You know how to bargain. His price might be my ransom.'
'Ay, when the jackals and hyenas have picked your banes, or you have died under the lash, chained to the oar, as I hae seen, Maister Arthur.'
'Better so than betray the dead woman's trust. How no—'
For there was a pattering of feet, a cry of 'Arthur, Arthur!' and sobbing, screaming, and crying, Ulysse threw himself on his friend's breast. He was pursued by one or two of the hangers-on of the sheyk's household, and the first comer seized him by the arm; but he clung to Arthur, screamed and kicked, and the old nurse who had come hobbling after coaxed in vain. He cried out in a mixture of Arabic and French that he would sleep with Arthur—Arthur must put him to bed; no one should take him away.
'Let him stay,' responded Yusuf; 'his time will come soon enough.'
Indulgence to children was the rule, and there was an easy good-nature about the race, which made them ready to defer the storm, and acquiesce in the poor little fellow remaining for another evening with that last remnant of his home to whom he always reverted at nightfall.
He held trembling by Arthur till all were gone, then looked about in terror, and required to be assured that no one was coming to take him away.
'They shall not,' he cried. 'Arthur, you will not leave me alone? They are all gone—Mamma, and Estelle, and la bonne, and Laurent, and my uncle, and all, and you will not go.'
'Not now, not to-night, my dear little mannie,' said Arthur, tears in his eyes for the first time throughout these misfortunes.
'Not now! No, never!' said the boy hugging him almost to choking. 'That naughty Ben Kader said they had sold you for a slave, and you were going away; but I knew I should find you—you are not a slave!—you are not black—'
'Ah! Ulysse, it is too true; I am—'
'No! no! no!' the child stamped, and hung on him in a passion of tears. 'You shall not be a slave. My papa shall come with his soldiers and set you free.'
Altogether the boy's vehemence, agitation, and terror were such that Arthur found it impossible to do anything but soothe and hush him, as best might be, till his sobs subsided gradually, still heaving his little chest even after he fell asleep in the arms of his unaccustomed nurse, who found himself thus baffled in using this last and only opportunity of trying to strengthen the child's faith, and was also hindered from pursuing Yusuf, who had left the tent. And if it were separation that caused all this distress, what likelihood that Yusuf would encumber himself with a child who had shown such powers of wailing and screaming?
He durst not stir nor speak for fear of wakening the boy, even when Yusuf returned and stretched himself on his mat, drawing a thick woollen cloth over him, for the nights were chill. Long did Arthur lie awake under the strange sense of slavery and helplessness, and utter uncertainty as to his fate, expecting, in fact, that Yusuf meant to keep him as a sort of tame animal to talk Scotch; but hoping to work on him in time to favour an escape, and at any rate to despatch a letter to Algiers, as a forlorn hope for the ultimate redemption of the poor little unconscious child who lay warm and heavy across his breast. Certainly, Arthur had never so prayed for aid, light, and deliverance as now!
CHAPTER VIII—THE SEARCH
'The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks, The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs. The deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.'
Arthur fell asleep at last, and did not waken till after sunrise, nor did Ulysse, who must have been exhausted with crying and struggling. When they did awaken, Arthur thinking with heavy heart that the moment of parting was come, he saw indeed the other three slaves busied in making bales of the merchandise; but the master, as well as the Abyssinian, Fareek, and the little negro were all missing. Bekir, who was a kind of foreman, and looked on the new white slave with some jealousy, roughly pointed to some coarse food, and in reply to the question whether the merchant was taking leave of the sheyk, intimated that it was no business of theirs, and assumed authority to make his new fellow-slave assist in the hardest of the packing.
Arthur had no heart to resist, much as it galled him to be ordered about by this rude fellow. It was only a taste, as he well knew, of what he had embraced, and he was touched by poor little Ulysse's persistency in keeping as close as possible, though his playfellows came down and tried first to lure, then to drag him away, and finally remained to watch the process of packing up. Though Bekir was too disdainful to reply to his fellow-slave's questions, Arthur picked up from answers to the Moors who came down that Yusuf had recollected that he had not finished his transactions with a little village of Cabyle coral and sponge-fishers on the coast, and had gone down thither, taking the little negro, to whom the headman seemed to have taken a fancy, so as to become a possible purchaser, and with the Abyssinian to attend to the mules.
A little before sundown Yusuf returned. Fareek lifted down a pannier covered by a crimson and yellow kerchief, and Yusuf declared, with much apparent annoyance, that the child was sick, and that this had frustrated the sale. He was asleep, must be carried into the tent, and not disturbed: for though the Cabyles had not purchased him, there was no affording to loose anything of so much value. Moreover, observing Ulysse still hovering round the Scot, he said, 'You may bide here the night, laddie, I ha tell't the sheyk;' and he repeated the same to the slaves in Arabic, dismissing them to hold a parting feast on a lamb stuffed with pistachio nuts, together with their village friends.
Then drawing near to Arthur, he said, 'Can ye gar yon wean keep a quiet sough, if we make him pass for the little black?'
Arthur started with joy, and stammered some words of intense relief and gratitude.
'The deed's no dune yet,' said Yusuf, 'and it is ower like to end in our leaving a' our banes on the sands! But a wilfu' man maun have his way,' he repeated; 'so, sir, if it be your wull, ye'd better speak to the bairn, for we must make a blackamoor of him while there is licht to do it, or Bekir, whom I dinna lippen to, comes back frae the feast.'
Ulysse, being used to Irish-English, had little understanding of Yusuf's broad Scotch; but he was looking anxiously from one to the other of the speakers, and when Arthur explained to him that the disguise, together with perfect silence, was the only hope of not being left behind among the Moors, and the best chance of getting back to his home and dear ones again, he perfectly understood. As to the blackening, for which Yusuf had prepared a mixture to be laid on with a feather, it was perfectly enchanting to faire la comedie. He laughed so much that he had to be peremptorily hushed, and they were sensible of the danger that in case of a search he might betray himself to his Moorish friends; and Arthur tried to make him comprehend the extreme danger, making him cry so that his cheeks had to be touched up. His eyes and hair were dark, and the latter was cut to its shortest by Yusuf, who further managed to fasten some tufts of wool dipped in the black unguent to the kerchief that bound his head. The childish features had something of the Irish cast, which lent itself to the transformation, and in the scanty garments of the little negro Arthur owned that he should never have known the small French gentleman. Arthur was full of joy—Yusuf gruff, brief, anxious, like one acting under some compulsion most unwillingly, and even despondently, but apparently constrained by a certain instinctive feudal feeling, which made him follow the desires of the young Border laird's son.
All had been packed beforehand, and there was nothing to be done but to strike the tents, saddle the mules, and start. Ulysse, still very sleepy, was lifted into the pannier, almost at the first streak of dawn, while the slaves were grumbling at being so early called up; and to a Moor who wakened up and offered to take charge of the little Bey, Yusuf replied that the child had been left in the sheyk's house.
So they were safely out at the outer gate, and proceeding along a beautiful path leading above the cliffs. The mules kept in one long string, Bekir with the foremost, which was thus at some distance from the hindmost, which carried Ulysse and was attended by Arthur, while the master rode his own animals and gave directions. The fiction of illness was kept up, and when the bright eyes looked up in too lively a manner, Yusuf produced some of the sweets, which were always part of his stock in trade, as a bribe to quietness.
At sunrise, the halt for prayer was a trial to Arthur's intense anxiety, and far more so was the noontide one for sleep. He even ventured a remonstrance, but was answered, 'Mair haste, worse speed. Our lives are no worth a boddle till the search is over.'
They were on the shady side of a great rock overhung by a beautiful creeping plant, and with a spring near at hand, and Yusuf, in leisurely fashion, squatted down, caused Arthur to lift out the child, who was fast asleep again, and the mules to be allowed to feed, and distributed some dried goat's flesh and dates; but Ulysse, somewhat to Arthur's alarm, did not wake sufficiently to partake.
Looking up in alarm, he met a sign from Yusuf and presently a whisper, 'No hurt done—'tis safer thus—'
And by this time there were alarming sounds on the air. The sheyk and two of the chief men of El Arnieh were on horseback and armed with matchlocks; and the whole 'posse of the village were following on foot, with yells and vituperations of the entire ancestry of the merchant, and far more complicated and furious threats than Arthur could follow; but he saw Yusuf go forward to meet them with the utmost cool courtesy.
They seemed somewhat discomposed: Yusuf appeared to condole with them on the loss, and, waving his hands, put all his baggage at their service for a search, letting them run spears through the bales, and overturn the baskets of sponges, and search behind every rock. When they approached the sleeping boy, Arthur, with throbbing heart, dimly comprehended that Yusuf was repeating the story of the disappointment of a purchase caused by his illness, and lifting for a moment the covering laid over him to show the bare black legs and arms. There might also have been some hint of infection which, in spite of all Moslem belief in fate, deterred Abou Ben Zegri from an over-close inspection. Yusuf further invented a story of having put the little Frank in charge of a Moorish woman in the adowara; but added he was so much attached to the Son of the Sea, that most likely he had wandered out in search of him, and the only wise course would be to seek him before he was devoured by any of the wild beasts near home.
Nevertheless, there was a courteous and leisurely smoking of pipes and drinking of coffee before the sheyk and his followers turned homewards. To Arthur's alarm and surprise, however, Yusuf did not resume the journey, but told Bekir that there would hardly be a better halting-place within their powers, as the sun was already some way on his downward course; and besides, it would take some time to repack the goods which had been cast about in every direction during the search. The days were at their shortest, though that was not very short, closing in at about five o'clock, so that there was not much time to spare. Arthur began to feel some alarm at the continued drowsiness of the little boy, who only once muttered something, turned round, and slept again.
'What have you done to him?' asked Arthur anxiously.
'The poppy,' responded Yusuf. 'Never fash yoursel'. The bairn willna be a hair the waur, and 'tis better so than that he shuld rax a' our craigs.'
Yusuf's peril was so much the greater, that it was impossible to object to any of his precautions, especially as he might take offence and throw the whole matter over; but it was impossible not to chafe secretly at the delay, which seemed incomprehensible. Indeed, the merchant was avoiding private communication with Arthur, only assuming the master, and ordering about in a peremptory fashion which it was very hard to digest.
After the sunset orisons had been performed, Yusuf regaled his slaves with a donation of coffee and tobacco, but with a warning to Arthur not to partake, and to keep to windward of them. So too did the Abyssinian, and the cause of the warning was soon evident, as Bekir and his companion nodded, and then sank into a slumber as sound as that of the little Frenchman. Indeed, Arthur himself was weary enough to fall asleep soon after sundown, in spite of his anxiety, and the stars were shining like great lamps when Yusuf awoke him. One mule stood equipped beside him, and held by the Abyssinian. Yusuf pointed to the child, and said, 'Lift him upon it.'
Arthur obeyed, finding a pannier empty on one side to receive the child, who only muttered and writhed instead of awaking. The other side seemed laden. Yusuf led the animal, retracing their way, while fire-flies flitted around with their green lights, and the distant laughter of hyenas gave Arthur a thrill of loathing horror. Huge bats fluttered round, and once or twice grim shapes crossed their path.
'Uncanny beasties,' quoth Yusuf; 'but they will soon be behind us.'
He turned into a rapidly-sloping path. Arthur felt a fresh salt breeze in his face, and his heart leapt up with hope.
In about an hour and a half they had reached a cove, shut in by dark rocks which in the night looked immeasurable, but on the white beach a few little huts were dimly discernible, one with a light in it. The sluggish dash of waves could be heard on the shore; there was a sense of infinite space and breadth before them; and Jupiter sitting in the north- west was like an enormous lamp, casting a pathway of light shimmering on the waters to lead the exiles home.
Three or four boats were drawn up on the beach; a man rose up from within one, and words in a low voice were exchanged between him and Yusuf; while Fareek, grinning so that his white teeth could be seen in the starlight, unloaded the mule, placing its packs, a long Turkish blunderbuss, and two skins of water, in the boat, and arranging a mat on which Arthur could lay the sleeping child.
Well might the youth's heart bound with gratitude, as, unmindful of all the further risks and uncertainties to be encountered, he almost saw his way back to Burnside!
'Beside the helm he sat, steering expert, Nor sleep fell ever on his eyes that watch'd Intent the Pleiads, tardy in decline, Bootes and the Bear, call'd else the Wain, Which in his polar prison circling, looks Direct towards Orion, and alone Of these sinks never to the briny deep.'
The boat was pushed off, the Abyssinian leapt into it; Arthur paused to pour out his thankfulness to Yusuf, but was met with the reply, 'Hout awa'! Time enugh for that—in wi' ye.' And fancying there was some alarm, he sprang in, and to his amazement found Yusuf instantly at his side, taking the rudder, and giving some order to Fareek, who had taken possession of a pair of oars; while the waters seemed to flash and glitter a welcome at every dip.
'You are coming! you are coming!' exclaimed Arthur, clasping the merchant's hand, almost beside himself with joy.
'Sma' hope wad there be of a callant like yersel' and the wean there winning awa' by yer lane,' growled Yusuf.
'You have given up all for us.'
'There wasna muckle to gie,' returned the sponge merchant. 'Sin' the gudewife and her bit bairnies at Bona were gane, I hadna the heart to gang thereawa', nor quit the sound o' the bonny Scots tongue. I wad as soon gang to the bottom as to the toom house. For dinna ye trow yersells ower sicker e'en the noo.'
'Is there fear of pursuit?'
'No mickle o' that. The folk here are what they ca' Cabyles, a douce set, not forgathering with Arabs nor wi' Moors. I wad na gang among them till the search was over to-day; but yesterday I saw yon carle, and coft the boatie frae him for the wee blackamoor and the mule. The Moors at El Aziz are not seafaring; and gin the morn they jalouse what we have done, we have the start of them. Na, I'm not feared for them; but forbye that, this is no the season for an open boatie wi' a crew of three and a wean. Gin we met an Algerian or Tunisian cruiser, as we are maist like to do, a bullet or drooning wad be ower gude in their e'en for us—for me, that is to say. They wad spare the bairn, and may think you too likely a lad to hang on the walls like a split corbie on the woodsman's lodge.'
'Well, Yusuf, my name is Hope, you know,' said Arthur. 'God has brought us so far, and will scarce leave us now. I feel three times the man that I was when I lay down this evening. Do we keep to the north, where we are sure to come to a Christian land in time?'
'Easier said than done. Ye little ken what the currents are in this same sea, or deed ye'll soon ken when we get into them.'
Arthur satisfied himself that they were making for the north by looking at the Pole Star, so much lower than he was used to see it in Scotland that he hardly recognised his old friend; but, as he watched the studded belt of the Hunter and the glittering Pleiades, the Horatian dread of Nimbosus Orion occurred to him as a thought to be put away.
Meantime there was a breeze from the land, and the sail was hoisted. Yusuf bade both Arthur and Fareek lie down to sleep, for their exertions would be wanted by and by, since it would not be safe to use the sail by daylight. It was very cold—wild blasts coming down from the mountains; but Arthur crept under the woollen mantle that had been laid over Ulysse, and was weary enough to sleep soundly. Both were awakened by the hauling down of the mast; and the little boy, who had quite slept off the drug, scrambling out from under the covering, was astonished beyond measure at finding himself between the glittering, sparkling expanse of sea and the sky, where the sun had just leapt up in a blaze of gold.
The white summits of Atlas were tipped with rosy light, beautiful to behold, though the voyagers had much rather have been out of sight of them.
'How much have we made, Yusuf?' began Arthur.
'Tam Armstrong, so please you, sir! Yusuf's dead and buried the noo; and if I were farther beyant the grip of them that kenned him, my thrapple would feel all the sounder!'
This day was, he further explained, the most perilous one, since they were by no means beyond the track of vessels plying on the coast; and as a very jagged and broken cluster of rocks lay near, he decided on availing themselves of the shelter they afforded. The boat was steered into a narrow channel between two which stood up like the fangs of a great tooth, and afforded a pleasant shade; but there was such a screaming and calling of gulls, terns, cormorants, and all manner of other birds, as they entered the little strait, and such a cloud of them hovered and whirled overhead, that Tam uttered imprecations on their skirling, and bade his companions lie close and keep quiet till they had settled again, lest the commotion should betray that the rocks were the lair of fugitives.
It was not easy to keep Ulysse quiet, for he was in raptures at the rush of winged creatures, and no less so at the wonderful sea-anemones and starfish in the pools, where long streamers of weed of beautiful colours floated on the limpid water.
Nothing reduced him to stillness but the sight of the dried goat's flesh and dates that Tam Armstrong produced, and for which all had appetites, which had to be checked, since no one could tell how long it would be before any kind of haven could be reached.
Arthur bathed himself and his charge in a pool, after Tam had ascertained that no many-armed squid or cuttlefish lurked within it. And while Ulysse disported himself like a little fish, Arthur did his best to restore him to his natural complexion, and tried to cleanse the little garments, which showed only too plainly the lack of any change, and which were the only Frank or Christian clothes among them, since young Hope himself had been almost stripped when he came ashore, and wore the usual garb of Yusuf's slaves.
Presently Fareek made an imperative sign to hush the child's merry tongue; and peering forth in intense anxiety, the others perceived a lateen sail passing perilously near, but happily keeping aloof from the sharp reef of rocks around their shelter. Arthur had forgotten the child's prayers and his own, but Ulysse connected them with dressing, and the alarm of the passing ship had recalled them to the young man's mind, though he felt shy as he found that Tam Armstrong was not asleep, but was listening and watching with his keen gray eyes under their grizzled brows. Presently, when Ulysse was dropping to sleep again, the ex-merchant began to ask questions with the intelligence of his shrewd Scottish brains.
The stern Calvinism of the North was wont to consign to utter neglect the outcast border of civilisation, where there were no decent parents to pledge themselves; and Partan Jeannie's son had grown up well-nigh in heathen ignorance among fisher lads and merchant sailors, till it had been left for him to learn among the Mohammedans both temperance and devotional habits. His whole faith and understanding would have been satisfied for ever; but there had been strange yearnings within him ever since he had lost his wife and children, and these had not passed away when Arthur Hope came in his path. Like many another renegade, he could not withstand the attraction of his native tongue; and in this case it was doubled by the feudal attachment of the district to the family of Burnside, and a grateful remembrance of the lady who had been one of the very few persons who had ever done a kindly deed by the little outcast. He had broken with all his Moslem ties for Arthur Hope's sake; and these being left behind, he began to make some inquiries about that Christian faith to which he must needs return—if return be the right word in the case of one who knew it so little when he had abjured it.
And Arthur had not been bred to the grim reading of the doctrine of predestination which had condemned poor Tam, even before he had embraced the faith of the Prophet. Boyish, and not over thoughtful, the youth, when brought face to face with apostacy, had been ready to give life or liberty rather than deny his Lord; and deepened by that great decision, he could hold up that Lord and Redeemer in colours that made Tam see that his clinging to his faith was not out of mere honour and constancy, but that Mohammed had been a poor and wretched substitute for Him whom the poor fellow had denied, not knowing what he did.
'Weel!' he said, 'gin the Deacon and the auld aunties had tellt me as mickle about Him, thae Moors might ha' preached their thrapples sair for Tam. Mashallah! Maister Arthur, do ye think, noo, He can forgie a puir carle for turning frae Him an' disowning Him?'
'I am sure of it, Tam. He forgives all who come to Him—and you—you did it in ignorance.'
'And you trow na that I am a vessel of wrath, as they aye said?'
'No, no, no, Tam. How could that be with one who has done what you have for us? There is good in you—noble goodness, Tam; and who could have put it there but God, the Holy Spirit? I believe myself He was leading you all the time, though you did not know it; making you a better man first, and now, through this brave kindness to us, bringing you back to be a real true Christian and know Him.'
Arthur felt as if something put the words into his mouth, but he felt them with all his heart, and the tears were in his eyes.
At sundown Tam grew restless. Force of habit impelled him to turn to Mecca and make his devotions as usual, and after nearly kneeling down on the flat stone, he turned to Arthur and said, 'I canna wed do without the bit prayer, sir.
'No, indeed, Tam. Only let it be in the right Name.'
And Arthur knelt down beside him and said the Lord's Prayer—then, under a spell of bashfulness, muttered special entreaty for protection and safety.
They were to embark again now that darkness would veil their movements, but the wind blew so much from the north that they could not raise the sail. The oars were taken by Tam and Fareek at first, but when they came into difficult currents Arthur changed places with the former.
And thus the hours passed. The Mediterranean may be in our eyes a European lake, but it was quite large enough to be a desert of sea and sky to the little crew of an open boat, even though they were favoured by the weather. Otherwise, indeed, they must have perished in the first storm. They durst not sail except by night, and then only with northerly winds, nor could there be much rest, since they could not lay to, and drift with the currents, lest they should be carried back to the African coast. Only one of the three men could sleep at a time, and that by one of the others taking both oars, and in time this could not but become very exhausting. It was true that all the coasts to the north were of Christian lands; but in their Moorish garments and in perfect ignorance of Italian, strangers might fare no better in Sardinia or Sicily than in Africa, and Spain might be no better; but Tam endeavoured to keep a north- westerly course, thinking from what Arthur had said that in this direction there was more chance of being picked up by a French vessel. Would their strength and provisions hold out? Of this there was serious doubt. Late in the year as it was, the heat and glare were as distressing by day as was the cold by night, and the continued exertion of rowing produced thirst, which made it very difficult to husband the water in the skins. Tam and Fareek were both tough, and inured to heat and privation; but Arthur, scarce yet come to his full height, and far from having attained proportionate robustness and muscular strength, could not help flagging, though, whenever steering was of minor importance, Tam gave him the rudder, moved by his wan looks, for he never complained, even when fragments of dry goat's flesh almost choked his parched mouth. The boy was never allowed to want for anything save water; but it was very hard to hear him fretting for it. Tam took the goatskin into his own keeping, and more than once uttered a rough reproof, and yet Arthur saw him give the child half his own precious ration when it must have involved grievous suffering. The promise about giving the cup of cold water to a little one could not but rise to his lips.
'Cauld! and I wish it were cauld!' was all the response Tam made; but his face showed some gratification.
This was no season for traffic, and they had barely seen a sail or two in the distance, and these only such as the experienced eyes of the ex-sponge merchant held to be dangerous. Deadly lassitude began to seize the young Scot; he began scarcely to heed what was to become of them, and had not energy to try to console Ulysse, who, having in an unwatched moment managed to swallow some sea water, was crying and wailing under the additional misery he had inflicted on himself. The sun beat down with noontide force, when on that fourth day, turning from its scorching, his languid eye espied a sail on the northern horizon.
'See,' he cried; 'that is not the way of the Moors.'
'Bismillah! I beg your pardon, sir,' cried Tam, but said no more, only looked intently.
Gradually, gradually the spectacle rose on their view fuller and fuller, not the ruddy wings of the Algerine or Italian, but the square white castle-like tiers of sails rising one above another, bearing along in a south-easterly direction.
'English or French,' said Tam, with a long breath, for her colours and build were not yet discernible. 'Mashallah! I beg pardon. I mean, God grant she pass us not by!'
The mast was hastily raised, with Tam's turban unrolled, floating at the top of it; and while he and Fareek plied their oars with might and main, he bade Arthur fire off at intervals the blunderbuss, which had hitherto lain idle at the bottom of the boat.
How long the intense suspense lasted they knew not ere Arthur cried, 'They are slackening sail! Thank God. Tam, you have saved us! English!'
'Not so fast!' Tam uttered an Arabic and then a Scottish interjection.
Their signal had been seen by other eyes. An unmistakable Algerine, with the crescent flag, was bearing down on them from the opposite direction.
'Rascals. Do they not dread the British flag?' cried Arthur. 'Surely that will protect us?'
'They are smaller and lighter, and with their galley slaves can defy the wind, and loup off like a flea in a blanket,' returned Tam, grimly. 'Mair by token, they guess what we are, and will hold on to hae my life's bluid if naething mair! Here! Gie us a soup of the water, and the last bite of flesh. 'Twill serve us the noo, find we shall need it nae mair any way.'
Arthur fed him, for he durst not slacken rowing for a moment. Then seeing Fareek, who had borne the brunt of the fatigue, looking spent, the youth, after swallowing a few morsels and a little foul-smelling drink, took the second oar, while double force seemed given to the long arms lately so weary, and both pulled on in silent, grim desperation. Ulysse had given one scream at seeing the last of the water swallowed, but he too, understood the situation, and obeyed Arthur's brief words, 'Kneel down and pray for us, my boy.'
The Abyssinian was evidently doing the same, after having loaded the blunderbuss; but it was no longer necessary to use this as a signal, since the frigate had lowered her boat, which was rapidly coming towards them.
But, alas! still more swiftly, as it seemed to those terrified eyes, came the Moorish boat—longer, narrower, more favoured by currents and winds, flying like a falcon towards its prey. It was a fearful race. Arthur's head began to swim, his breath to labour, his arms to move stiffly as a thresher's flail; but, just as power was failing him, an English cheer came over the waters, and restored strength for a few more resolute strokes.
Then came some puffs of smoke from the pirate's boat, a report, a jerk to their own, a fresh dash forward, even as Fareek fired, giving a moment's check to the enemy. There was a louder cheer, several shots from the English boat, a cloud from the ship's side. Then Arthur was sensible of a relaxation of effort, and that the chase was over, then that the British boat was alongside, friendly voices ringing in his ears, 'How now, mates? Runaways, eh? Where d'ye hail from?'
'Scottish! British!' panted out Arthur, unable to utter more, faint, giddy, and astounded by the cheers around him, and the hands stretched out in welcome. He scarcely saw or understood.
'Queer customers here! What! a child! Who are you, my little man? And what's this? A Moor! He's hit—pretty hard too.'
This brought back Arthur's reeling senses in one flash of horror, at the sight of Tam, bleeding fast in the bottom of the boat.
'O Tam! Tam! He saved me! He is Scottish too,' cried Arthur. 'Sir, is he alive?'
'I think so,' said the officer, who had bent over Tam. 'We'll have him aboard in a minute, and see what the doctor can do with him. You seem to have had a narrow escape.'
Arthur was too busy endeavouring to staunch the blood which flowed fast from poor Tam's side to make much reply, but Ulysse, perched on the officer's knee, was answering for him in mixed English and French. 'Moi, je suis le Chevalier de Bourke! My papa is ambassador to Sweden. This gentleman is his secretary. We were shipwrecked—and M. Arture and I swam away together. The Moors were good to us, and wanted to make us Moors; but M. Arture said it would be wicked. And Yusuf bought him for a slave; but that was only from faire la comedie. He is bon Chretien after all, and so is poor Fareek, only he is dumb. Yusuf—that is, Tam—made me all black, and changed me for his little negro boy; and we got into the boat, and it was very hot, and oh! I am so thirsty. And now M. Arture will take me to Monsieur mon Pere, and get me some nice clothes again,' concluded the young gentleman, who, in this moment of return to civilised society, had become perfectly aware of his own rank and importance.
Arthur only looked up to verify the child's statements, which had much struck the lieutenant. Their boat had by this time been towed alongside of the frigate, and poor Tam was hoisted on board, and the surgeon was instantly at hand; but he said at once that the poor fellow was fast dying, and that it would be useless torture to carry him below for examination.
A few words passed with the captain, and then the little Chevalier was led away to tell his own tale, which he was doing with a full sense of his own importance; but presently the captain returned, and beckoned to Arthur, who had been kneeling beside poor Tam, moistening his lips, and bathing his face, as he lay gasping and apparently unconscious, except that he had gripped hold of his broad sash or girdle when it was taken off.
'The child tells me he is Comte de Bourke's son,' said the captain, in a tentative manner, as if doubtful whether he should be understood, and certainly Arthur looked more Moorish than European.
'Yes, sir! He was on his way with his mother to join his father when we were taken by a Moorish corsair.'
'But you are not French?' said the captain, recognising the tones.
'No, sir; Scottish—Arthur Maxwell Hope. I was to have gone as the Count's secretary.'
'You have escaped from the Moors? I could not understand what the boy said. Where are the lady and the rest?'
Arthur as briefly as he could, for he was very anxious to return to poor Tam, explained the wreck and the subsequent adventures, saying that he feared the poor Countess was lost, but that he had seen her daughter and some of her suite on a rock. Captain Beresford was horrified at the idea of a Christian child among the wild Arabs. His station was Minorca, but he had just been at the Bay of Rosas, where poor Comte de Bourke's anxiety and distress about his wife and children were known, and he had received a request amounting to orders to try to obtain intelligence about them, so that he held it to be within his duty to make at once for Djigheli Bay.
For further conversation was cut short by sounds of articulate speech from poor Tam. Arthur turned hastily, and the captain proceeded to give his orders.
'Is Maister Hope here?'
'Here! Yes. O Tam, dear Tam, if I could do anything!' cried Arthur.
'I canna see that well,' said Tam, with a sound of anxiety. 'Where's my sash?'
'This is it, in your own hand,' said Arthur, thinking he was wandering, but the other hand sought one of the ample folds, which was sewn over, and weighty.
'Tak' it; tak' tent of it; ye'll need the siller. Four hunder piastres of Tunis, not countin' zeechins, and other sma' coin.'
'Shall I send them to any one at Eyemouth?'
Tam almost laughed. 'Na, na; keep them and use them yersell, sir. There's nane at hame that wad own puir Tam. The leddy, your mither, an' you hae been mair to me than a' beside that's above ground, and what wad ye do wi'out the siller?'
'O Tam! I owe all and everything to you. And now—'
Tam looked up, as Arthur's utterance was choked, and a great tear fell on his face. 'Wha wad hae said,' murmured he, 'that a son of Burnside wad be greetin' for Partan Jeannie's son?'
'For my best friend. What have you not saved me from! and I can do nothing!'
'Nay, sir. Say but thae words again.'
'Oh for a clergyman! Or if I had a Bible to read you the promises.'
'You shall have one,' said the captain, who had returned to his side. The surgeon muttered that the lad seemed as good as a parson; but Arthur heard him not, and was saying what prayers came to his mind in this stress, when, even as the captain returned, the last struggle came on. Once more Tam looked up, saying, 'Ye'll be good to puir Fareek;' and with a word more, 'Oh, Christ: will He save such as I?' all was over.
'Come away, you can do nothing more,' said the doctor. 'You want looking to yourself.'
For Arthur tottered as he tried to rise, and needed the captain's kind hand as he gained his feet. 'Sir,' he said, as the tears gushed to his eyes, 'he does deserve all honour—my only friend and deliverer.'
'I see,' said Captain Beresford, much moved; 'whatever he has been, he died a Christian. He shall have Christian burial. And this fellow?' pointing to poor Fareek, whose grief was taking vent in moans and sobs.
'Christian—Abyssinian, but dumb,' Arthur explained; and having his promise that all respect should be paid to poor Tam's corpse, he let the doctor lead him away, for he had now time to feel how sun-scorched and exhausted he was, with giddy, aching head, and legs cramped and stiff, arms strained and shoulders painful after his three days and nights of the boat. His thirst, too, seemed unquenchable, in spite of drinks almost unconsciously taken, and though hungry he had little will to eat.
The surgeon made him take a warm bath, and then fed him with soup, after which, on a promise of being called in due time, he consented to deposit himself in a hammock, and presently fell asleep.
When he awoke he found that clothes had been provided for him—naval uniforms; but that could not be helped, and the comfort was great. He was refreshed, but still very stiff. However, he dressed and was just ready, when the surgeon came to see whether he were in condition to be summoned, for it was near sundown, and all hands were piped up to attend poor Tam's funeral rites. His generous and faithful deed had eclipsed the memory that he was a renegade, and, indeed, it had been in such ignorance that he had had little to deny.
All the sailors stood as respectfully as if he had been one of themselves while the captain read a portion of the Burial Office. Such honours would never have been his in his native land, where at that time even Episcopalians themselves could not have ventured on any out-door rites; and Arthur was thus doubly struck and impressed, when, as the corpse, sewn in sail-cloth and heavily weighted, was launched into the blue waves, he heard the words committing the body to the deep, till the sea should give up her dead. He longed to be able to translate them to poor Fareek, who was weeping and howling so inconsolably as to attest how good a master he had lost.
Perhaps Tam's newly-found or recovered Christianity might have been put to hard shocks as to the virtues he had learnt among the Moslems. At any rate Arthur often had reason to declare in after life that the poor renegade might have put many a better-trained Christian to shame.
CHAPTER X—ON BOARD THE 'CALYPSO'
'From when this youth? His country, name, and birth declare!'
'You had forgotten this legacy, Mr. Hope,' said Captain Beresford, taking Arthur into his cabin, 'and, judging by its weight, it is hardly to be neglected. I put it into my locker for security.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Arthur. 'The question is whether I ought to take it. I wished for your advice.'
'I heard what passed,' said the captain. 'I should call your right as complete as if you had a will made by a half a dozen lawyers. When we get into port, a few crowns to the ship's company to drink your health, and all will be right. Will you count it?'
The folds were undone, and little piles made of the gold, but neither the captain nor Arthur were much the wiser. The purser might have computed it, but Captain Beresford did not propose this, thinking perhaps that it was safer that no report of a treasure should get abroad in the ship.
He made a good many inquiries, which he had deferred till Arthur should be in a fitter condition for answering, first about the capture and wreck, and what the young man had been able to gather about the Cabeleyzes. Then, as the replies showed that he had a gentleman before him, Captain Beresford added that he could not help asking, 'Que diable allait il faire dans cette galere?'
'Sir,' said Arthur, 'I do not know whether you will think it your duty to make me a prisoner, but I had better tell you the whole truth.'
'Oho!' said the captain; 'but you are too young! You could never have been out with—with—we'll call him the Chevalier.'
'I ran away from school,' replied Arthur, colouring. 'I was a mere boy, and I never was attainted,' explained Arthur, blushing. 'I have been with my Lord Nithsdale, and my mother thought I could safely come home, and that if I came from Sweden my brother could not think I compromised him.'
'Lord Burnside. He is at Court, in favour, they say, with King George. He is my half-brother; my mother is a Maxwell.'
'There is a Hope in garrison at Port Mahon—a captain,' said the captain. 'Perhaps he will advise you what to do if you are sick of Jacobite intrigue and mystery, and ready to serve King George.'
Arthur's face lighted up. 'Will it be James Hope of Ryelands, or Dickie Hope of the Lynn, or—?'
Captain Beresford held up his hands.
'Time must show that, my young friend,' he said, smiling. 'And now I think the officers expect you to join their mess in the gunroom.'
There Arthur found the little Chevalier strutting about in an adaptation of the smallest midshipman's uniform, and the centre of an admiring party, who were equally diverted by his consequential airs and by his accounts of his sports among the Moors. Happy fellow, he could adapt himself to any society, and was ready to be the pet and plaything of the ship's company, believing himself, when he thought of anything beyond the present, to be full on the road to his friends again.
Fareek was a much more difficult charge, for Arthur had hardly a word that he could understand. He found the poor fellow coiled up in a corner, just where he had seen his former master's remains disappear, still moaning and weeping bitterly. As Arthur called to him he looked up for a moment, then crawled forward, striking his forehead at intervals against the deck. He was about to kiss the feet of his former fellow- slave, the glittering gold, blue, and white of whose borrowed dress no doubt impressed him. Arthur hastily started back, to the amazement of the spectators, and called out a negative—one of the words sure to be first learnt. He tried to take Fareek's hand and raise him from his abject attitude; but the poor fellow continued kneeling, and not only were no words available to tell him that he was free, but it was extremely doubtful whether freedom was any boon to him. One thing, however, he did evidently understand—he pointed to the St. George's pennant with the red cross, made the sign, looked an interrogation, and on Arthur's reply, 'Christians,' and reiteration of the word 'Salem,' peace, he folded his arms and looked reassured.
'Ay, ay, my hearty,' said the big boatswain, 'ye've got under the old flag, and we'll soon make you see the difference. Cut out your poor tongue, have they, the rascals, and made a dummy of you? I wish my cat was about their ears! Come along with you, and you shall find what British grog is made of.'
And a remarkable friendship arose between the two, the boatswain patronising Fareek on every occasion, and roaring at him as if he were deaf as well as dumb, and Fareek appearing quite confident under his protection, and establishing a system of signs, which were fortunately a universal language. The Abyssinian evidently viewed himself as young Hope's servant or slave, probably thinking himself part of his late master's bequest, and there was no common language between them in which to explain the difference or ascertain the poor fellow's wishes. He was a slightly-made, dexterous man, probably about five and twenty years of age, and he caught up very quickly, by imitation, the care he could take of Arthur's clothes, and the habit of waiting on him at meals.
Meantime the Calypso held her course to the south-east, till the chart declared the coast to be that of Djigheli Bay, and Arthur recognised the headlands whither the unfortunate tartane had drifted to her destruction. Anchoring outside the hay, Captain Beresford sent the first lieutenant, Mr. Bullock, in the long-boat, with Arthur and a well-armed force, with instructions to offer no violence, but to reconnoitre; and if they found Mademoiselle de Bourke, or any others of the party, to do their best for their release by promises of ransom or representations of the consequences of detaining them. Arthur was prepared to offer his own piastres at once in case of need of immediate payment. He was by this time tolerably versed in the vernacular of the Mediterranean, and a cook's boy, shipped at Gibraltar, was also supposed to be capable of interpreting.
The beautiful bay, almost realising the description of AEneas' landing- place, lay before them, the still green waters within reflecting the fantastic rocks and the wreaths of verdure which crowned them, while the white mountain-tops rose like clouds in the far distance against the azure sky. Arthur could only, however, think of all this fair scene as a cruel prison, and those sharp rocks as the jaws of a trap, when he saw the ribs of the tartane still jammed into the rock where she had struck, and where he had saved the two children as they were washed up the hatchway. He saw the rock where the other three had clung, and where he had left the little girl. He remembered the crowd of howling, yelling savages, leaping and gesticulating on the beach, and his heart trembled as he wondered how it had ended.
Where were the Cabeleyzes who had thus greeted them? The bay seemed perfectly lonely. Not a sound was to be heard but the regular dip of the oars, the cry of a startled bird, and the splash of a flock of seals, which had been sunning themselves on the shore, and which floundered into the sea like Proteus' flock of yore before Ulysses. Would that Proteus himself had still been there to be captured and interrogated! For the place was so entirely deserted that, saving for the remains of the wreck, he must have believed himself mistaken in the locality, and the lieutenant began to question him whether it had been daylight when he came ashore.
Could the natives have hidden themselves at sight of an armed vessel? Mr. Bullock resolved on landing, very cautiously, and with a sufficient guard. On the shore some fragments of broken boxes and packing cases appeared; and a sailor pointed out the European lettering painted on one—sse de B—-. It plainly was part of the address to the Comtesse de Bourke. This encouraged the party in their search. They ascended the path which poor Hebert and Lanty Callaghan had so often painfully climbed, and found themselves before the square of reed hovels, also deserted, but with black marks where fires had been lighted, and with traces of recent habitation.
Arthur picked up a rag of the Bourke livery, and another of a brocade which he had seen the poor Countess wearing. Was this all the relic that he should ever be able to take to her husband?
He peered about anxiously in hopes of discovering further tokens, and Mr. Bullock was becoming impatient of his lingering, when suddenly his eye was struck by a score on the bark of a chestnut tree like a cross, cut with a feeble hand. Beneath, close to the trunk, was a stone, beyond the corner of which appeared a bit of paper. He pounced upon it. It was the title-page of Estelle's precious Telemaque, and on the back was written in French, If any good Christian ever finds this, I pray him to carry it to M. the French Consul at Algiers. We are five poor prisoners, the Abbe de St. Eudoce, Estelle, daughter of the Comte de Bourke, and our servants, Jacques Hebert, Laurent Callaghan, Victorine Renouf. The Cabeleyzes are taking us away to their mountains. We are in slavery, in hunger, filth, and deprivation of all things. We pray day and night that the good God will send some one to rescue us, for we are in great misery, and they persecute us to make us deny our faith. O, whoever you may be, come and deliver us while we are yet alive.'
Arthur was almost choked with tears as he translated this piteous letter to the lieutenant, and recollected the engaging, enthusiastic little maiden, as he had seen her on the Rhone, but now brought to such a state. He implored Mr. Bullock to pursue the track up the mountain, and was grieved at this being treated as absurdly impossible, but then recollecting himself, 'You could not, sir, but I might follow her and make them understand that she must be saved—'
'And give them another captive,' said Bullock; 'I thought you had had enough of that. You will do more good to this flame of yours—'
'No flame, sir. She is a mere child, little older than her brother. But she must not remain among these lawless savages.'
'No! But we don't throw the helve after the hatchet, my lad! All you can do is to take this epistle to the French Consul, who might find it hard to understand without your explanations. At any rate, my orders are to bring you safe on board again.'
Arthur had no choice but to submit, and Captain Beresford, who had a wife and children at home, was greatly touched by the sight of the childish writing of the poor little motherless girl; above all when Arthur explained that the high-sounding title of Abbe de St. Eudoce only meant one who was more likely to be a charge than a help to her.
France was for the nonce allied with England, and the dread of passing to Sweden through British seas had apparently been quite futile, since, if Captain Beresford recollected the Irish blood of the Count, it was only as an additional cause for taking interest in him. Towards the Moorish pirates the interest of the two nations united them. It was intolerable to think of the condition of the captives; and the captain, anxious to lose no time, rejoiced that his orders were such as to justify him in sailing at once for Algiers to take effectual measures with the consul before letting the family know the situation of the poor Demoiselle de Bourke.
CHAPTER XI—THE PIRATE CITY
'With dazed vision unawares From the long alley's latticed shade Emerged, I came upon the great Pavilion of the Caliphat. Right to the carven cedarn doors, Flung inward over spangled floors, Broad-based flights of marble stairs Ran up with golden balustrade, After the fashion of the time, And humour of the golden prime Of good Haroun Alraschid.'
Civilised and innocuous existence has no doubt been a blessing to Algiers as well as to the entire Mediterranean, but it has not improved the picturesqueness of its aspect any more than the wild and splendid 'tiger, tiger burning bright,' would be more ornamental with his claws pared, the fiery gleam of his yellow eyes quenched, and his spirit tamed, so as to render him only an exaggerated domestic cat. The steamer, whether of peace or war, is a melancholy substitute for the splendid though sinister galley, with her ranks of oars and towers of canvas, or for the dainty lateen-sailed vessels, skimming the waters like flying fish, and the Frank garb ill replaces the graceful Arab dress. The Paris-like block of houses ill replaces the graceful Moorish architecture, undisturbed when the Calypso sailed into the harbour, and the amphitheatre-like city rose before her, in successive terraces of dazzling white, interspersed with palms and other trees here and there, with mosques and minarets rising above them, and with a crown of strong fortifications. The harbour itself was protected by a strongly-fortified mole, and some parley passed with the governor of the strong and grim-looking castle adjacent—a huge round tower erected by the Spaniards, and showing three ranks of brazen teeth in the shape of guns.
Finally, the Algerines having been recently brought to their bearings, as Captain Beresford said, entrance was permitted, and the Calypso enjoyed the shelter of the mole; while he, in full-dress uniform, took boat and went ashore, and with him the two escaped prisoners. Fareek remained on board till the English Consul could be consulted on his fate.
England and France were on curious terms with Algiers. The French had bombarded the city in 1686, and had obtained a treaty by which a consul constantly resided in the city, and the persons and property of French subjects were secured from piracy, or if captured were always released. The English had made use of the possession of Gibraltar and Minorca to enforce a like treaty. There was a little colony of European merchants—English, French, and Dutch—in the lower town, near the harbour, above which the Arab town rose, as it still rises, in a steep stair. Ships of all these nations traded at the port, and quite recently the English Consul, Thomas Thompson by name, had vindicated the honour of his flag by citing before the Dey a man who had insulted him on the narrow causeway of the mole. The Moor was sentenced to receive 2200 strokes of bastinado on the feet, 1000 the first day, 1200 on the second, and he died in consequence, so that Englishmen safely walked the narrow streets. The Dey who had inflicted this punishment was, however, lately dead. Mehemed had been elected and installed by the chief Janissaries, and it remained to be proved whether he would show himself equally anxious to be on good terms with the Christian Powers.