The same irresistible antipathy to death compelled his white captives to follow the black sheik.
They were unwilling to die,—not for the sole reason that they had homes and friends they wished to see again,—not solely for that innate love of life, implanted by Nature in the breasts of all; but there was a pleasure which they desired to experience once more,—aye, yearned to indulge in it: the pleasure of quenching their terrible thirst. To gratify this pleasure they must follow Golah.
One of Golah's wives had three children; and, as each wife was obliged to look after her own offspring, this woman could not pursue her journey without a little more trouble than her less favored companions.
The eldest of her children was too young to walk a long distance; and, most of the time, was carried under her care upon the maherry. Having her three restless imps, to keep balanced upon the back of the camel, requiring her constant vigilance to prevent them from falling off, she found her hands full enough. It was a sort of travelling that did not at all suit her; and she had been casting about for some way of being relieved from at least a portion of her trouble.
The plan she devised was to compel some one of the slaves to carry her eldest child, a boy about four years of age.
Colin was the victim selected for this duty. All the attempts made by the young Scotchman to avoid the responsibilities thus imposed upon him proved vain. The woman was resolute, and Colin had to yield; although he resisted until she threatened to call Golah to her assistance.
This argument was conclusive; and the young darkey was placed upon Colin's shoulders, with its legs around his neck, and one of its hands grasping him tightly by the hair.
When this arrangement was completed, night had drawn near; and the two young men who acted as guards hastened forward to select a place for the douar.
There was no danger of any of the slaves making an attempt to escape; for all were too anxious to receive the small quantity of food that was to be allowed them at the night halt.
Encumbered with the "piccaninny," and wearied with the long, ceaseless struggle through the sand, Colin lingered behind his companions. The mother of the child, apparently attentive to the welfare of her first-born, checked the progress of her maherry, and rode back to him.
After the camels had been unloaded, and the tents pitched, Golah superintended the serving out of their suppers, which consisted only of sangleh. The quantity was even less than had been given the evening before; but it was devoured by the white captives with a pleasure none of them had hitherto experienced.
Sailor Bill declared that the brief time in which he was employed in consuming the few mouthfuls allowed him, was a moment of enjoyment that repaid him for all the sufferings of the day.
"Ah, Master Arry!" said he, "it's only now we are larnin' to live, although I did think, one time to-day, we was just larnin' to die. I never mean to eat again until I'm hungry Master Terry," he added, turning to the young Irishman, "isn't this foine livin' intirely? and are yez not afther bein' happy?"
"'T is the most delicious food man ever ate," answered Terence, "and the only fault I can find is that there is not enough of it."
"Then you may have what is left of mine," said Colin, "for I can't say that I fancy it."
Harry, Terence, and the sailor gazed at the young Scotchman with expressions of mingled alarm and surprise. Small as had been the amount of sangleh with which Colin had been served, he had not eaten more than one half of it.
"Why, puir Maister Colly, what is wrang wi' ye?" exclaimed Bill, in a tone expressing fear and pity. "If ye dinna eat, mon, ye'll dee."
"I'm quite well," answered Colin, "but I have had plenty, and any of you can take what is left."
Though the hunger of Colin's three companions was not half satisfied, they all refused to finish the remainder of his supper, hoping that he might soon find his appetite, and eat it himself.
The pleasure they had enjoyed in eating the small allowance given them rendered it difficult for them to account for the conduct of their companion. His abstemiousness caused them uneasiness, even alarm.
COLIN IN LUCK.
The next morning, when the caravan started, Colin again had the care of the young black. He did not always have to carry him, as part of the time the boy trotted along by his side.
During the fore-part of the day, the young Scotchman with his charge easily kept up with his companions, and some of the time might be seen a little in advance of them. His kind attentions to the boy were observed by Golah, who showed some sign of human feeling, by exhibiting a contortion of his features intended for a smile.
Towards noon, Colin appeared to become fatigued with the toil of the journey, and then fell back to the rear, as he had done the evening before. Again the anxious mother, ever mindful of the welfare of her offspring, was seen to check her camel, and wait until Colin and the boy overtook her.
Sailor Bill had been much surprised at Colin's conduct the evening before, especially at the patient manner in which the youth had submitted to the task of looking after the child. There was a mystery in the young Scotchman's behavior he could not comprehend,—a mystery that soon became more profound. It had also attracted the attention of Harry and Terence, notwithstanding the many unpleasant circumstances of the journey calculated to abstract their thoughts from him and his charge.
Shortly after noon, the woman was seen driving Colin up to the kafila, urging him forward with loud screams, and blows administered with the knotted end of the rope by which she guided her maherry.
After a time Golah, apparently annoyed by her shrill, scolding voice, ordered her to desist, and permit the slave to continue his journey in peace.
Although unable to understand the meaning of her words, Colin must have known that the woman was not using terms of endearment.
The screaming, angry tone, and the blows of the rope might have told him this; and yet he submitted to her reproaches and chastisements with a meekness and a philosophic resignation which surprised his companions.
When his thoughts were not too much absorbed by painful reveries over the desire for food and water, Harry endeavored to converse with the Krooman already mentioned. He now applied to the man for an interpretation of the words so loudly vociferated by the angry negress, and launched upon the head of the patient young Scotchman.
The Krooman said that she had called the lad a lazy pig, a Christian dog, and an unbelieving fool; and that she threatened to kill him unless he kept up with the kafila.
On the third day of their journeying, it chanced not to be quite so hot as on the one preceding it; and consequently the sufferings of the slaves, especially from thirst, were somewhat less severe.
"I shall never endure such agony again," said Harry, speaking of his experience of the previous day. "Perhaps I may die for the want of water, and on this desert; but I can never suffer so much real pain a second time."
"'Ow is that, Master Arry?" asked Bill.
"Because I cannot forget, after my experience of last night, that the greater the desire for water, the more pleasure there is in gratifying it; and the anticipation of such happiness will go far to alleviate anything I may hereafter feel."
"Well, there be summat in that, for sartin," answered the sailor, "for I can't 'elp thinkin' about 'ow nice our supper was last night, and only 'ope it will taste as well to-night again."
"We have learnt something new," said Terence, "new, at least, to me; and I shall know how to live when I get where there is plenty. Heretofore I have been like a child—eating and drinking half my time, not because I required it, but because I knew no better. There is Colly, now, he don't seem to appreciate the beauty of this Arabian style of living; or he may understand it better than we. Perhaps he is waiting until he acquires a better appetite, so that he may have all the more pleasure in gratifying it. Where is he now?"
They all looked about. They saw that Colin had once more fallen behind; and that the mother of the child was again waiting for him.
Harry and Terence walked on, expecting that they would soon see their companion rudely driven up by the angry negress.
Sailor Bill stopped, as though he was interested in being a witness to the scene thus anticipated.
In a few minutes after, the young Scotchman, with the child, was hurried forward by the enraged hag—who once more seemed in a great rage at his inability or unwillingness to keep up with the others.
"I ken it 'a noo," said Bill, after he had stood for some time witnessing the ill-treatment heaped upon Colin.
"Our freen Colly's in luck. I've no langer any wonder at his taking a' this tribble wi' the blackey bairn."
"What is it, Bill? what have you learnt now?" asked Terence and Harry in a breath.
"I've larnt why Colly could not eat his dinner yesterday."
"Well, why was it?"
"I've larnt that the nager's anger with Colly is all a pretince, an' that she's an old she schemer."
"Nonsense, Bill; that is all a fancy of yours," said Colin, who, with the child on his shoulders, was now walking alongside his companions.
"It is no fancy of mine, mon," answered Bill, "but a fancy o' the woman for a bra' fair luddie. What is it that she gives you to eat, Maister Colly?"
Seeing that it was idle to conceal his good fortune any longer, Colin now confessed it,—informing them that the woman, whenever she could do so without being seen, had given him a handful of dried figs, with a drink of camel's milk from a leathern bottle which she carried under her cloak.
Notwithstanding the opinion they had just expressed, on the enjoyment attending prolonged thirst and hunger, Colin's companions congratulated him on his good fortune,—one and all declaring their willingness to take charge of the little darkey, on the condition of being similarly rewarded.
They had no suspicion at that moment that their opinions might soon undergo a change; and that Colin's supposed good fortune would ere long become a source of much uneasiness to all of them.
SAILOR BILL'S EXPERIMENT.
The afternoon of this day was very warm, yet Golah rode on at such a quick pace, that it required the utmost exertion of the slaves to keep up with him.
This manner of travelling, under the circumstances in which he was required to pursue it, proved too severe for Sailor Bill to endure with any degree of patience.
He became unable, as he thought, to walk any farther; or, if not wholly unable, he was certainly unwilling, and he therefore sat down.
A heavy shower of blows produced no effect in moving him from the spot where he had seated himself, and the two young men who acted as guards, not knowing what else to do, and having exhausted all their arguments, accompanied by a series of kicks, at length appealed to Golah.
The sheik instantly turned his maherry, and rode back.
Before he had reached the place, however, the three mids had used all their influence in an endeavor to get their old companion to move on. In this they had been joined by the Krooman, who entreated Bill, if he placed any value on his life, to get up before Golah should arrive, for he declared the monster would show him no mercy.
"For God's sake," exclaimed Harry Blount, "if it is possible for you to get up and go a little way farther, do so."
"Try to move on, man," said Terence, "and we will help you. Come, Bill, for the sake of your friends try to get up. Golah is close by."
While thus speaking, Terence, assisted by Colin, took hold of Bill and tried to drag him to his feet; but the old sailor obstinately persisted in remaining upon the ground.
"Perhaps I could walk on a bit farther," said he, "but I won't. I've 'ad enough on it. I'm goin' to ride, and let Golah walk awhile. He's better able to do it than I am. Now don't you boys be so foolish as to get yersels into trouble on my account. All ye've got to do is to look on, an' ye'll larn somethin'. If I've no youth an' beauty, like Colly, to bring me good luck, I've age and experience, and I'll get it by schamin'."
On reaching the place where the sailor was sitting, Golah was informed of what had caused the delay, and that the usual remedy had failed of effect.
He did not seem displeased at the communication. On the contrary, his huge features bore an expression that for him might have been considered pleasant.
He quietly ordered the slave to get up, and pursue his journey.
The weary sailor had blistered feet; and, with his strength almost exhausted by hunger and thirst, had reached the point of desperation. Moreover, for the benefit of himself and his young companions, he wished to try an experiment.
He told the Krooman to inform the sheik that he would go on, if allowed to ride one of the camels.
"You want me to kill you?" exclaimed Golah, when this communication was made to him; "you want to cheat me out of the price I have paid for you; but you shall not. You must go on. I, Golah, have said it."
The sailor, in reply, swore there was no possible chance for them to take him any farther, without allowing him to ride.
This answer to the sheik's civil request was communicated by the Krooman; and, for a moment, Golah seemed puzzled as to how he should act.
He would not kill the slave after saying that he must go on; nor would he have him carried, since the man would then gain his point.
He stood for a minute meditating on what was to be done. Then a hideous smile stole over his features. He had mastered the difficulty.
Taking its halter from the camel, he fastened one end of it to the saddle, and the other around the wrists of the sailor. Poor old Bill made resistance to being thus bound, but he was like an infant in the powerful grasp of the black sheik.
The son and brother-in-law of Golah stood by with their muskets on full cock, and the first move any of Bill's companions could have made to assist him, would have been a signal for them to fire.
When the fastenings were completed, the sheik ordered his son to lead the camel forward, and the sailor, suddenly jerked from his attitude of repose, was rudely dragged onward over the sand.
"You are going now!" exclaimed Golah, nearly frantic with delight; "and we are not carrying you, are we? Neither are you riding? Bismillah! I am your master!"
The torture of travelling in this manner was too great to be long endured, and Bill had to take to his feet and walk forward as before. He was conquered; but as a punishment for the trouble he had caused, the sheik kept him towing at the tail of the camel for the remainder of that day's journey.
Any one of the white slaves would once have thought that he possessed too much spirit to allow himself or a friend to be subjected to such treatment as Bill had that day endured.
None of them was deficient in true courage; yet the proud spirit, of which each had once thought himself possessed, was now subdued by a power to which, if it be properly applied, all animate things must yield.
That power was the feeling of hunger; and there is no creature so wild and fierce but will tamely submit to the dominion of the man who commands it. It is a power that must be used with discretion, or the victims to it, urged by desperation, may destroy their keeper. Golah had the wisdom to wield it with effect; for by it, with the assistance of two striplings, he easily controlled those who, under other circumstances, would have claimed the right to be free.
AN UNJUST REWARD.
The next morning on resuming the journey Golah condescended to tell his captives that they should reach a well or spring that afternoon, and stay by it for two or three days.
This news was conveyed to Harry by the Krooman; and all were elated at the prospect of rest, with a plentiful supply of water.
Harry had a long conversation with the Krooman as they were pursuing their route. The latter expressed his surprise that the white captives were so contented to go on in the course in which the sheik was conducting them.
This was a subject about which Harry and his companions had given themselves no concern; partly because that they had no idea that Golah was intending to make a very long journey, and partly that they supposed his intentions, whatever they were, could not be changed by anything they might propose.
The Krooman thought different. He told Harry that the route they were following, if continued, would lead them far into the interior of the country—probably to Timbuctoo; and that Golah should be entreated to take them to some port on the coast, where they might be ransomed by an English consul.
Harry perceived the truth of these suggestions; and, after having a conversation with his companions, it was determined between them that they should have a talk with Golah that very night.
The Krooman promised to act as interpreter, and to do all in his power to favor their suit. He might persuade the sheik to change his destination, by telling him that he would find a far better market in taking them to some place where vessels arrive and depart, than by carrying them into the interior of the country.
The man then added, speaking in a mysterious manner, that there was one more subject on which he wished to give them warning. When pressed to mention it, he appeared reluctant to do so.
He was at last prevailed upon to be more communicative; when he proclaimed his opinion, that their companion, Colin, would never leave the desert.
"Why is that?" asked Harry.
"Bom-by he be kill. De sheik kill um."
Although partly surmising his reasons for having formed this opinion, Harry urged him to further explain himself.
"Ef Golah see de moder ob de piccaninny gib dat lad one lilly fig,—one drop ob drink, he kill um, sartin-sure. I see, one, two,—seb'ral more see. Golah no fool. Bom-by he see too, and kill um bof,—de lad an' de piccaninny moder."
Harry promised to warn his companion of the danger, and save him before the suspicions of Golah should be aroused.
"No good, no good," said the Krooman.
In explanation of this assertion, Harry was told that, should the young Scotchman refuse any favor from the woman, her wounded vanity would change her liking to the most bitter hatred, and she would then contrive to bring down upon him the anger of Golah,—an anger that would certainly be fatal to its victim.
"Then what must I do to save him?" asked Harry.
"Noting," answered the Krooman. "You noting can do. Ony bid him be good man, and talk much,—pray to God. Golah wife lub him, and he sure muss die."
Harry informed the sailor and Terence of what the Krooman had told him, and the three took counsel together.
"I believes as how the darkey be right," said Bill. "Of course, if the swab Goliarh larns as 'ow one av 'is wives ha' taken a fancy to Master Colly, 't will be all up wi' the poor lad. He will be killed,—and mayhap eaten too, for that matter."
"Like enough," assented Terence. "And should he scorn her very particular attentions, her resentment might be equally as dangerous as Golah's. I fear poor Colin has drifted into trouble."
"What ye be afther sayin' about the woman," said Bill, "'minds me o' a little story I wunce heeard whin I was a boy. I read it in a book called the Bible. It was about a young man, somethin' like Master Colly, barrin' his name was Joseph. A potter's wife tuck a fancy to him; but Joseph, bein' a dacent an' honest youngster, treted her wid contimpt, an' came to great grief by doin' that same. You must 'ave read that story, Master 'Arry," continued Bill, turning from Terence to the young Englishman, and changing his style of pronunciation. "Did it not 'appen summers in this part o' the world? Hif I remember rightly, it did. I know 't was summers in furrin parts."
"Yes," answered Harry, "that little affair did happen in this part of the world,—since it was in Africa,—and our comrade has a fair prospect of being more unfortunate than Joseph. In truth, I don't see how we shall be able to assist him."
"There he is, about a hundred cable lengths astern," said Bill, looking back. "And there's the old 'oman, too, lookin' sharp afther him, while Colly is atin' the figs and drinkin' the camel's milk; and while I'm dying for a dhrop of that same, old Goliarh is no doubt proud wid the great care she's takin' of his child. Bud won't there be a row when he larns summat more? Won't there, Master 'Arry?"
"There will, indeed," answered Harry. "Colin will soon be up with us, and we must talk to him."
Harry was right, for Colin soon after overtook them,—having been driven up as usual by the negress, who seemed in great anger at the trouble he was causing her.
"Colin," said Harry, when their companion and the child had joined them, "you must keep that woman away from you. Her partiality for you has already been noticed by others. The Krooman has just been telling us that you will not live much longer; that Golah is neither blind nor foolish; and that, on the slightest suspicion he has of the woman showing you any favor,—even to giving you a fig,—he will kill you."
"But what can I do?" asked Colin. "If the woman should come to you and offer you a handful of figs and a drink of milk, could you refuse them?"
"No, I certainly could not. I only wish such an alternative would present itself; but you must manage in some way or other to keep away from her. You must not linger behind, but remain all the time by us."
"If you knew," asked Colin, "that you could quench your thirst by lagging a few paces behind, would you not do so?"
"That would be a strong temptation, and I should probably yield; but I tell you that you are in danger."
Neither of Colin's companions could blame him. Suffering, as he was, from the ceaseless agony of hunger and thirst, any indiscretion, or even crime, seemed justifiable, for the sake of obtaining relief.
The day became hotter and hotter, until in the afternoon the sufferings of the slaves grew almost unendurable. Sailor Bill appeared to be more severely affected than any of his companions. He had been knocking about the world for many long years, injuring his constitution by dissipation and exposure in many climes; and the siege that thirst and hunger were now making to destroy his strength became each hour more perceptible in its effect.
By the middle of the afternoon it was with the utmost difficulty he could move along; and his tongue was so parched that in an attempt to speak he wholly failed. His hands were stretched forth towards Colin; who, since the warning he had received, had kept up along with the rest.
Colin understood the signal; and placed the boy on the old man's shoulders. Bill wished to learn if the mother would reward him for taking care of her child, as she had his predecessor in the office. To carry out the experiment he allowed himself to be left in the rear of the caravan.
Golah's son and the other guard had noticed the old sailor's suffering condition, and objected to his being incumbered with the child. They pointed to Harry and Terence; but Bill was resolute in holding on to his charge; and cursing him for an unbelieving fool, they allowed him to have his own way.
Not long after, the mother of the child was seen to stop her camel, and the three mids passed by her unnoticed. The old sailor hastened up as fast as his weary limbs would allow to receive the hoped-for reward; but the poor fellow was doomed to a cruel disappointment.
When the woman perceived who had been entrusted with the carrying of her child, she pronounced two or three phrases in a sharp, angry tone. Understanding them, the child dismounted from the sailor's back and ran with all speed towards her.
Bill's reward was a storm of invectives, accompanied by a shower of blows with the knotted end of the halter. He strove to avoid the punishment by increasing his speed; but the camel seemed to understand the relative distance that should be maintained between its rider and the sailor, so that the former might deliver and the latter receive the blows with the most painful effect. This position it kept until Bill had got up to his companions; his naked shoulders bearing crimson evidence of the woman's ability in the handling of a rope's end.
As she rode past Colin, who had again taken charge of the child, she gave the young Scotchman a look that seemed to say, "You have betrayed me!" and without waiting for a look in return, she passed on to join her husband at the head of the caravan.
The black slaves appeared highly amused at the sailor's misfortunes. The incident had aroused their expiring energies, and the journey was pursued by them with more animation than ever.
Bill's disappointment was not without some beneficial effect upon himself. He was so much revived by the beating, that he soon after recovered his tongue; and as he shuffled on alongside his companions, they could hear him muttering curses, some in good English, some in bad, some in a rich Irish brogue, and some in the broadest Scotch.
THE WATERLESS WELL.
Golah expected to reach the watering-place early in the evening; and all the caravan was excited by the anticipation of soon obtaining a plentiful supply of water.
It was well they were inspired by this hope. But for that, long before the sun had set, Sailor Bill and three or four others would have dropped down in despair, physically unable to have moved any further. But the prospect of plenty of water, to be found only a few miles ahead, brought, at the same time, resolution, strength, and life. Faint and feeble, they struggled on, nearly mad with the agony of nature's fierce demands; and soon after sunset they succeeded in reaching the well.
It was dry!
Not a drop of the much desired element was shining in the cavity where they had expected to find it.
Sailor Bill and some of the other slaves sank upon the earth, muttering prayers for immediate death.
Golah was in a great rage with everything, and his wives, children, slaves, and camels, that were most familiar with his moods, rushed here and there to get out of his way.
Suddenly he seemed to decide on a course to be taken in this terrible emergency, and his anger to some extent subsided.
Unbuckling the last goat-skin of water from one of the camels, he poured out a small cup for each individual of the kafila. Each was then served with a little sangleh and a couple of dried figs.
All were now ordered to move on towards the west, Golah leading the way. The new route was at right angles to the course they had been following during the earlier part of the day.
Some of the slaves who declared that they were unable to go further, found out, after receiving a few ticklings of the stick, that they had been mistaken. The application of Golah's cudgel awakened dormant energies of which they had not deemed themselves possessed.
After proceeding about two miles from the scene of their disappointment, Golah suddenly stopped,—as he did so, giving to his followers some orders in a low tone.
The camels were immediately brought into a circle, forced to kneel down, while their lading was removed from them.
While this was going on, the white captives heard voices, and the trampling of horses' hoofs.
The black sheik, with his highly educated ear, had detected the approach of strangers. This had caused him to order the halt.
When the noises had approached a little nearer Golah called out in Arabic: "Is it peace?"
"It is," was the answer; and as the strangers drew nearer, the salutations of "Peace be with you!"—"Peace be with all here, and with your friends!" were exchanged.
The caravan they had met consisted of between fifteen and twenty men, some horses and camels; and the sheik who commanded it inquired of Golah from whence he came.
"From the west," answered Golah, giving them to understand that he was travelling the same way as themselves.
"Then why did you not keep on to the well?" was the next inquiry.
"It is too far away," answered Golah. "We are very weary."
"It is not far," said the chief, "not more than half a league. You had better go on."
"No. I think it is more than two leagues, and we shall wait till morning."
"We shall not. I know the well is not far away, and we shall reach it to-night."
"Very well," said Golah, "go, and may God be with you. But stay, masters, have you a camel to sell?"
"Yes, a good one. It is a little fatigued now, but will be strong in the morning."
Golah was aware that any camel they would sell him that night would be one that could only move with much difficulty,—one that they despaired of getting any further on the way. The black sheik knew his own business best; and was willing they should think they had cheated him in the bargain.
After wrangling for a few minutes, he succeeded in buying their camel,—the price being a pair of blankets, a shirt, and the dirk that had been taken from Terence. The camel had no cargo; and had for some time been forced onward at considerable trouble to its owner.
The strangers soon took their departure, going off in the direction of the dry well. As soon as they were out of sight Golah gave orders to reload the animals, and resume the interrupted march. To excite the slaves to a continuance of the journey, he promised that the camel he had purchased should be slaughtered on the next morning for their breakfast; and that they should have a long rest in the shade of the tents during the following day.
This promise, undoubtedly, had the anticipated effect in revivifying their failing energies, and they managed to move on until near daybreak, when the camel lately purchased laid itself down, and philosophically resisted every attempt at compelling it to continue the journey.
It was worn out with toil and hunger, and could not recover its feet.
The other animals were stopped and unladen, the tents were pitched, and preparations made for resting throughout the day.
After some dry weeds had been collected for fuel, Golah proceeded to fulfil his promise of giving them plenty of food.
A noose was made at the end of a rope, and placed around the camel's lower jaw. Its head was then screwed about, as far as it would reach, and the rope was made fast to the root of its tail,—the long neck of the camel allowing its head to be brought within a few inches of the place where the rope was tied.
Fatima, the favorite, stood by holding a copper kettle; while Golah opened a vein on the side of the animal's neck near the breastbone. The blood gushed forth in a stream; and before the camel had breathed its last, the vessel held to catch it had become filled more than half full.
The kettle was then placed over the fire, and the blood boiled and stirred with a stick until it had become as thick as porridge. It was then taken off, and when it had cooled down, it resembled, both in color and consistency, the liver of a fresh killed bullock.
This food was divided amongst the slaves, and was greedily devoured by all.
The heart and liver of the camel, Golah ordered to be cooked for his own family; and what little flesh was on the bones, was cut into strips, and hung up in the sun to dry.
In one portion of the camel's stomach was about a gallon and a half of water, thick and dirty with the vegetation it had last consumed; but all was carefully poured into a goat's skin, and preserved for future use.
The intestines were also saved, and hung out in the sun to get cured by drying, to be afterwards eaten by the slaves.
During the day Harry and Terence asked for an interview with Golah; and, accompanied by the Krooman, were allowed to sit down by the door of his tent while they conversed with him.
Harry instructed the Krooman to inform their master, that if they were taken to some seaport, a higher ransom would be paid for them than any price for which they could be sold elsewhere.
Golah's reply to this information was, that he doubted its truth; that he did not like seaport towns; that his business lay away from the sea; and that he was anxious to reach Timbuctoo as soon as possible. He further stated, that if all his slaves were Christian dogs, who had reached the country in ships, it might be worth his while to take them to some port where they would be redeemed; but as the most of them were of countries that did not pay ransoms for their subjects, there would be no use in his carrying them to the coast,—where they might escape from him, and he would then have had all his trouble for nothing.
He was next asked if he would not try to sell the white captives along with the two Kroomen, to some slave dealer, who would take them to the coast for a market.
Golah would not promise this. He said, that to do so, he should have to sell them on the desert, where he could not obtain half their value.
The only information they were able to obtain from him was, that they were quite certain of seeing that far-famed city, Timbuctoo,—that was if they should prove strong enough to endure the hardships of the journey.
After thanking Golah for his condescension in listening to their appeal, the Krooman withdrew, followed by the others, who now for the first time began to realize the horror of their position. A plentiful supply of food, along with the day's rest, had caused all the white slaves to turn their thoughts from the present to the future.
Harry Blount and Terence, after their interview with Golah, found Colin and Sailor Bill anxiously awaiting their return.
"Well, what's the news?" asked Bill, as they drew near.
"Very bad," answered Terence. "There is no hope for us: we are going to Timbuctoo."
"No, I'm no going there," said Bill, "if it was in another world I might see the place soon enough, but in this, niver,—niver!"
At an early hour next morning the caravan started on its journey, still moving westward. This direction Golah was compelled to pursue to obtain a supply of water, although it was taking him no nearer his destination.
Two days' journey was before them ere they could reach another well. While performing it, Golah, vexed at the delay thus occasioned, was in very ill-humor with things in general.
Some of his displeasure was vented upon the camel he was riding, and the animal was usually driven far ahead of the others.
The sheik's wrath also fell upon his wives for lingering behind, and then upon the slaves for not following closer upon the heels of his camel. His son, and brother-in-law, would at intervals be solemnly cursed in the name of the Prophet for not driving the slaves faster.
Before the well had been reached, the four white slaves were in a very wretched condition. Their feet were blistered and roasted by the hot sand, and as the clothing allowed them was insufficient protection against the blazing sun, their necks and legs were inflamed and bleeding.
The intestines and most of the flesh of the slaughtered camel had been long ago consumed, as well as the filthy water taken from its stomach.
Colin had again established himself in the favor of the sheik's wife, and was allowed to have the care of the child; but the little food and drink he received for his attention to it were dearly earned.
The weight of the young negro was a serious incumbrance in a weary journey through what seemed to be a burning plain; moreover the "darkey," in keeping its seat on the young Scotchman's shoulders, had pulled a quantity of hair out of his head, besides rendering his scalp exceedingly irritable to further treatment of a like kind.
Hungry, thirsty, weak, lame, and weary, the wretched captives struggled on until the well was reached.
On arriving within sight of a small hill on which were growing two or three sickly bushes, Golah pointed towards it, at the same time turning his face to those who were following him. All understood the signal, and seemed suddenly inspired with hope and happiness. The travellers pressed forward with awakened energy, and after passing over the hill came in sight of the well at its foot.
The eagerness exhibited by the slaves to quench their thirst might have been amusing to any others than those who beheld them; but their master seemed intent on giving them a further lesson in the virtue of patience.
He first ordered the camels to be unladen, and the tents to be pitched. While some were doing this, he directed others to seek for fuel.
Meanwhile, he amused himself by collecting all the dishes and drinking-vessels, and placing them contiguous to the well.
He then attached a rope to a leathern bucket, and, drawing water from the reservoir, he carefully filled the utensils, with the least possible waste of the precious fluid his followers were so anxious to obtain.
When his arrangements were completed, he called his wives and children around him. Then, serving out to each of them about a pint of the water, and giving them a few seconds for swallowing it, he ordered them off.
Each obeyed without a murmur, all apparently satisfied.
The slaves were next called up, and then there was a rush in real earnest. The vessels were eagerly seized, and their contents greedily swallowed. They were presented for more, refilled, and again emptied.
The quantity of water swallowed by Sailor Bill and his three young companions, and the rapacity with which it was gulped down, caused Golah to declare that there was but one God, that Mahomet was his Prophet, and that four of the slaves about him were Christian swine.
After all had satisfied the demands of nature, Golah showed them the quantity of water he deemed sufficient for a thirsty individual by drinking about a pint himself—not more than a fifth of the amount consumed by each of his white slaves.
Long years of short allowance had accustomed the negro sheik to make shift with a limited allowance of the precious commodity, and yet continue strong and active.
About two hours after they had reached the well, and just as they had finished watering the camels, another caravan arrived. Its leader was hailed by Golah with the words, "Is it peace?"—the usual salutation when strangers meet on the desert.
The answer was, "It is peace"; and the new comers dismounted, and pitched their camp.
Next morning Golah had a long talk with their sheik, after which he returned to his own tents in much apparent uneasiness.
The caravan newly arrived consisted of eleven men, with eight camels and three Saaeran horses. The men were all Arabs—none of them being slaves. They were well armed, and carried no merchandise. They had lately come from the northwest, for what purpose Golah knew not: since the account the stranger sheik had given of himself was not satisfactory.
Though very short of provisions, Golah resolved not to leave the well that day; and the Krooman learnt that this resolution was caused by his fear of the strangers.
"If he is afraid of them," said Harry, "I should suppose that would make him all the more anxious to get out of their company."
The Krooman, in explanation, stated that if the Arabs were robbers—pirates of the desert—they would not molest Golah so long as he remained at the well.
In this the Krooman was correct. Highway robbers do not waylay their victims at an inn, but on the road. Pirates do not plunder ships in a harbor, but out on the open ocean. Custom, founded on some good purpose, has established a similar rule on the great sandy ocean of the Saaera.
"I wish they were robbers, and would take us from Golah!" said Colin. "We should then perhaps be carried to the north, where we might be ransomed some time or other. As it is, if we are to be taken to Timbuctoo, we shall never escape out of Africa."
"We shall not be taken there," cried Terence. "We shall turn robbers ourselves first. I will for one; and when I do, Golah shall be robbed of one of his slaves at least."
"An' that wan will be Misther Terence O'Connor, ov coorse?" said Bill.
"Thin ye will 'ave done no more than Master Colly, who has already robbed 'im ov twa—the haffections ov 'is wife an' bairn."
"That will do, Bill," said Colin, who did not like hearing any allusion made to the woman. "We have something else that should engage our attention. Since we have learnt that they intend taking us to Timbuctoo, it is time we began to act. We must not go there."
"That is understood," said Harry; "but what can we do? Something should be done immediately. Every day we journey southward carries us farther from home, or the chance of ever getting there. Perhaps these Arabs may buy us, and take us north. Suppose we get the Krooman to speak to them?"
All consented to this course. The Krooman was called, and when informed of their wishes he said that he must not be seen speaking to the Arabs, or Golah would be displeased. He also stated—what the white captives had already observed—that Golah and his son were keeping a sharp watch over them, as well as over the strangers; and that an opportunity of talking to the Arab sheik might not be easily obtained.
While he was still speaking, the latter was observed proceeding towards the well to draw some water.
The Krooman instantly arose, and sauntered after.
He was observed by the quick eye of Golah, who called to him to come away; which he did, but not before quenching his thirst, that did not appear to be very great.
On the Krooman's return from the well, he informed Harry that he had spoken to the Arab sheik. He had said, "Buy us. You will get plenty of money for us in Swearah;" and that the reply of the sheik was, "The white slaves are dogs, and not worth buying."
"Then we have no hope from that source!" exclaimed Terence.
The Krooman shook his head; not despondently, but as if he did not agree in the opinion Terence had expressed.
"What! do you think there is any hope?" asked Harry.
The man gave a nod of assent.
"How? In what way?"
The Krooman vouchsafed no explanation, but sauntered silently away.
When the sun was within two or three hours of setting over the Saaera, the Arabs struck their tents, and started off in the direction of the dry well—from whence Golah and his caravan had just come. After they had disappeared behind the hill, Golah's son was sent to its top to watch them, while his women and slaves were ordered to strike the tents as quickly as possible.
Then waiting till the shades of night had descended over the desert, and the strangers were beyond the reach of vision, Golah gave orders to resume the march once more in a southeasterly direction—which would carry them away from the seacoast—and, as the white slaves believed, from all chances of their ever recovering their freedom.
The Krooman, on the contrary, appeared to be pleased at their taking this direction, notwithstanding the objections he had expressed to going inland.
A MOMENTOUS INQUIRY.
During the night's journey Golah still seemed to have some fear of the Arabs; and so great was his desire to place as much ground as possible between himself and them, that he did not halt, until the sun was more than two hours above the horizon.
For some time before a halt had been planned, Fatima, his favorite wife, had been riding by his side, and making, what seemed, from the excited movements of both, an important communication.
After the tents had been pitched, and food was about being served out, Golah commanded the mother of the boy carried by Colin to produce the bag of figs that had been intrusted to her keeping.
Trembling with apprehension, the woman rose to obey. The Krooman glanced at the white captives with an expression of horror; and although they had not understood Golah's command, they saw that something was going wrong.
The woman produced the bag; which was not quite half full. There were in it about two quarts of dried figs.
The figs that had been served out three days before at the dry well had been taken from another bag kept in the custody of Fatima.
The one now produced by the second wife should have been full: and Golah demanded to know why it was not.
The woman tremblingly asseverated that she and her children had eaten them.
At this confession Fatima uttered a scornful laugh, and spoke a few words that increased the terror of the delinquent mother,—at the same time causing the boy to commence howling with affright.
"I tell you so," said the Krooman, who was standing near the white slaves; "Fatima say to Golah, 'Christian dog eat the figs'; Golah kill him now; he kill da woman too."
In the opinion of those who travel the great desert, about the greatest crime that can be committed is to steal food or drink, and consume either unknown to their companions of the journey.
Articles of food intrusted to the care of any one must be guarded and preserved,—even at the expense of life.
Under no circumstances may a morsel be consumed, until it is produced in the presence of all, and a division, either equitable or otherwise, has been made.
Even had the story told by the woman been true, her crime would have been considered sufficiently great to have endangered her life; but her sin was greater than that.
She had bestowed favor upon a slave,—a Christian dog,—and had aroused the jealousy of her Mahometan lord and master.
Fatima seemed happy; for nothing less than a miracle could, in her opinion, save the life of her fellow-wife, who chanced to be a hated rival.
After drawing his scimitar from its sheath, and cocking his musket, Golah ordered all the slaves to squat themselves on the ground, and in a row.
This order was quickly comprehended and obeyed,—the whites seating themselves together at one end of the line.
Golah's son and the other guard—each with his musket loaded and cocked—were stationed in front of the row: and were ordered by the sheik to shoot any one who attempted to get up from the ground.
The monster then stepped up to Colin, and, seizing the young Scotchman by the auburn locks, dragged him a few paces apart from his companions. There, for a time, he was left alone.
Golah then proceeded to serve out some cheni to every individual on the ground; but none was given to the woman who had aroused his anger, nor to Colin.
In the sheik's opinion, to have offered them food would have been an act as foolish as to have poured it upon the sands.
Food was intended to sustain life, and it was not designed by him that they should live much longer. And yet it was evident from his manner that he had not quite determined as to how they were to die.
The two guards, with the muskets in their grasp, kept a sharp eye on the slaves, while Golah became engaged in a close consultation with Fatima.
"What shall we do?" asked Terence; "the old villain means mischief, and how can we prevent it? We must not let him kill poor Colly?"
"We must do something immediately," said Harry. "We have neglected it too long, and shall now have to act under the disadvantage of their being prepared for an attack. Bill, what should we do?"
"I was just thinking," said Bill, "that if we all made a rush at 'em, at the words One—two—three! not more 'n two or three of us might be killed afore we grappled with 'em. Now, this might do, if these black fellows would only jine us."
The Krooman here expressed himself as one willing to take his chance in any action they should propose, and believed that his countrymen would do the same. He feared, however, that the other blacks could not be trusted, and that any proposal he might make to them would be in a language the two guards would understand.
"Well, then," said Harry, "there will be six of us against three. Shall I give the word?"
"All right!" said Terence, drawing his feet under his body, by way of preparation for rising suddenly.
The scheme was a desperate one, but all seemed willing to undertake it.
Since leaving the well, they had felt convinced that life and liberty depended on their making a struggle; though circumstances seemed to have forced that struggle upon them when there was the least hope of success.
"Now all make ready," muttered Harry, speaking in a calm voice, so as not to excite the attention of the guards. "One!"
"Stop!" exclaimed Colin, who had been listening attentively to all that was said. "I'm not with you. We should all be killed. Two or three would be shot, and the sheik himself could finish all the rest with his scimitar. It is better for him to kill me, if he really means to do so, than to have all four destroyed in the vain hope of trying to save one."
"It is not for you alone that we are going to act," interposed Harry. "It is as much for ourselves."
"Then act when there is a chance of succeeding," pursued Colin. "You cannot save me, and will only lose your own lives."
"De big black sheik am going to kill someb'dy, dat berry sure," said the Krooman, as he sat with his eyes fixed upon Golah.
The latter was still in consultation with Fatima, his face wearing an expression that was horrible for all except herself to behold. Murder by excruciating torture seemed written on every feature of his countenance.
The woman, upon whose manner of death they were deliberating, was in the act of caressing her children, apparently conscious that she had but a few minutes more to remain in their company. Her features wore an expression of calm and hopeless resignation, as if she had yielded herself up to the decree of an inevitable fate.
The third wife had retired a short distance from the others. With her child in her arms, she sat upon the ground, contemplating the scene before her with a look of mingled surprise, curiosity, and regret.
From the appearance of the whole caravan, a stranger could have divined that some event of thrilling interest was about to transpire.
"Colin," cried Terence, encouragingly, "we won't sit here quietly, and see you meet death. We had better do something while yet we have a chance. Let Harry give the word."
"I tell you it's madness," expostulated Colin. "Wait till we see what he intends doing. Perhaps he'll keep me a while for future vengeance, and ye may have a chance of a rescue when there are not two men standing over us ready to blow our brains out."
Colin's companions saw there was truth in this remark, and for a while they waited in silence, with their eyes fixed upon the tent of the sheik.
They had not long to wait, for, soon after, Golah came forth, having finished his consultation with Fatima.
On his face appeared a hideous smile,—a smile that made most of those who beheld it shudder with a sensation of horror.
A LIVING GRAVE.
Golah's first act after coming forth was to take some thongs from his saddle. Having done this, he beckoned to the two who guarded the slaves, giving them some admonition in an unknown tongue. The effect was to excite their greater vigilance. The muzzles of their muskets were turned towards the white captives, and they seemed anxiously waiting the order to fire.
Golah then looked towards Terence, and made a sign for the young Irishman to get up and come towards him.
"Go on, Terry," muttered Colin "He don't mean you any harm."
At this instant Fatima stepped out from the tent, armed with her husband's scimitar, and apparently anxious for an opportunity of using it.
Acting under the advice of the others, Terence sprang to his feet: and advanced to the spot where the sheik was standing. The Krooman who spoke English was then called up; and Golah, taking him and the midshipman each by a hand, led them into his tent,—whither they were followed by Fatima.
The sheik now addressed a few words to the Krooman, who then told Terence that his life depended on perfect obedience to Golah's orders. His hands were to be tied; and he must not call out so as to be heard by the others.
"He say," said the Krooman, "if you no make fight, and no make noise, he no kill you."
The man further counselled Terence to submit quietly,—saying that the least resistance would lead to all the white slaves being killed.
Though possessing more than average strength and power for a youth of his age, Terence knew that, in a strife with the gigantic black sheik, he would not have the slightest chance of being victor.
Should he shout to his companions, and have them all act in concert,—as they had already proposed?
No. Such an act would most likely lead to two of them being shot; to the third having his brains knocked out with the butt-end of a musket; and to the fourth,—himself,—being strangled in the powerful grasp of Golah, if not beheaded with the scimitar in the hands of Fatima. On reflection, the young Scotchman yielded, and permitted his hands to be tied behind his back; so, too, did the Krooman.
Golah now stepped out of the tent: and immediately after returned, leading Harry Blount along with him.
On reaching the opening, and seeing Terence and the Krooman lying bound upon the floor, the young Englishman started back, and struggled to free himself from the grasp of the hand that had hold of him. His efforts only resulted in his being instantly flung to the earth, and fast held by his powerful adversary, who at the same time was also employed in protecting his victim from the fury of Fatima.
Terence, Harry, and the Krooman were now conducted back over the ground, and placed in their former position in the row,—from which they had been temporarily taken.
Sailor Bill and Colin were next treated in a similar fashion,—both being fast bound like their companions.
"What does the ould divil mane?" asked Bill when Golah was tying his hands together. "Will he murder us all?"
"No," answered the Krooman, "He no kill but one of your party."
His eyes turned upon Colin as he spoke.
"Colin! Colin!" exclaimed Harry; "see what you have done by opposing our plan! We are all helpless now."
"And so much the better for yourselves," answered Colin. "You will now suffer no further harm."
"If he means no harm, why has he bound us?" asked Bill. "It's a queer way of showing friendship."
"Yes, but a safe one," answered Colin. "You cannot now bring yourselves into danger by a foolish resistance to his will."
Terence and Harry understood Colin's meaning; and now, for the first time, comprehended the reason why they had been bound.
It was to prevent them from interfering with Golah's plans for the disposal of his two victims.
Now that the white slaves were secured, no danger was apprehended from the others; and the two who had been guarding them, retired to the shade of a tent to refresh themselves with a drink of cheni.
While the brief conversation above related was being held, Golah had become busily engaged in overhauling the lading of one of his camels.
The object of his search was soon discovered: for, the moment after, he came towards them carrying a long Moorish spade.
Two of the black slaves were then called from the line; the spade was placed in the hands of one, and a wooden dish was given to the other. They were then ordered to make a large hole in the sand,—to accomplish which they at once set to work.
"They are digging a grave for me, or that of the poor woman,—perhaps for both of us?" suggested Colin, as he calmly gazed on the spectacle.
His companions had no doubt but that it was as he had said; and sat contemplating the scene in melancholy silence.
While the slaves were engaged in scooping up the hole, Golah called the two guards, and gave them some orders about continuing the journey.
The blacks set about the work were but a few minutes in making an excavation in the loose sand of some four feet in depth. They were then directed to dig another.
"It's all over with me," said Colin; "he intends to kill two, and of course I must be one of them."
"He should kill us all," exclaimed Terence. "We deserve it for leaving the well last night. We should have made an effort for our lives, while we had the chance."
"You are right," replied Harry; "we are fools, cowardly fools! We deserve neither pity in this world nor happiness in the next. Colly, my friend, if you meet with any harm, I swear to avenge it, whenever my hands are free."
"And I'll be with you," added Terence.
"Never mind me, old comrades," answered Colin, who seemed less excited than the others. "Do the best you can for yourselves, and you may some time escape from this monster."
The attention of Harry was now attracted to Sailor Bill, who had turned his back toward one of the black slaves sitting near him, and was by signs entreating the man to untie his hand.
The man refused, evidently fearing the anger of Golah should he be detected.
The second Krooman, who was unbound, now offered to loose the hands of his countryman; but the latter seemed satisfied with his want of freedom, and refused the proffered aid. He also feared death at the hands of Golah.
If left to divine the ultimate intentions of the black sheik by the knowledge of human nature they had acquired before falling into his hands, the white captives would not have been seriously alarmed for the welfare of any one of their number. But Golah was a specimen of natural history new to them; and their apprehensions were excited to the highest pitch by the conduct of those whom they knew to be better acquainted with his character.
The behavior of the woman who had aroused his anger showed that she was endeavoring to resign herself to some fearful mode of death. The wild lamentations of her children denoted that they were conscious of some impending misfortune.
Fatima seemed about to realize the fulfilment of some long-cherished hope,—the hope of revenge on a detested rival.
The care Golah had taken to hinder any interference with his plans,—the words of the Krooman, the looks and gestures of the guards and of Golah himself, the digging of two graves in the sand,—all gave warning that some fearful tragedy was about to be enacted. Our adventurers were conscious of this, and conscious, also, that they could do nothing to prevent it.
Nearly frantic with the helplessness of their position, they could only wait—"trembling for the birth of Fate."
THE SHEIK'S PLAN OF REVENGE.
The second sand-pit was dug a short distance from the first; and when it had been sunk to the depth of about four and a half feet, Golah commanded the blacks to leave off their labor,—one of them being sent back to the line to be seated along with his fellow-slaves.
By this time the tents had been struck, the camels loaded; and all but Golah and Fatima appeared willing and anxious to depart from the spot. These were not: for their business at that camping-place had not yet been completed.
When the two guards had again resumed their former stations in front of the line,—as before with their muskets at full cock,—Golah advanced towards the woman, who, disengaging herself from her children, stood up at his approach.
Then succeeded a moment of intense interest.
Was he going to kill her?
If so, in what manner?
All looked on with painful anticipation of some dire event.
It soon transpired. The woman was seized by Golah himself; dragged towards the pits that had been dug; and thrust into one of them. The slave who wielded the spade was then commanded to fill up the excavation around her.
Terence was the first to speak.
"God help her!" he exclaimed; "the monster is going to bury her alive! Can't we save her?"
"We are not men if we do not try!" exclaimed Harry, as he suddenly sprang to his feet.
His example was immediately followed by his white companions.
The two muskets were instantly directed towards them; but at a shout from Golah their muzzles were as quickly dropped.
The sheik's son then, at his father's command, ran to the pit to secure the woman, while Golah himself rushed forward to meet the helpless men who were advancing towards him.
In an instant the four were thrown prostrate to the earth.
With their hands tied, the powerful sheik upset them as easily as though they had been bags of sand.
Raising Harry by the hair of his head with one hand and Terence with the other, he dragged them back to their places in the line where they had been already seated.
Sailor Bill saved himself from like treatment by rolling over and over until he had regained his former place. Colin was allowed to lie on the ground where the sheik had knocked him over.
Golah now returned to the pit where the woman stood half buried.
She made no resistance—she uttered no complaint—but seemed calmly to resign herself to a fate that could not be averted. Golah apparently did not intend to behold her die, for, when the earth was filled in around her body, her head still remained above ground. She was to be starved to death! As the sheik was turning away to attend to other matters, the woman spoke. Her words were few, and produced no effect upon him. They did, however, upon the Krooman, whose eyes were seen to fill with tears that rapidly chased each other down his mahogany-colored cheeks.
Colin, who seemed to notice everything except the fate threatening himself, observed the Krooman's excitement, and inquired its cause.
"She ask him to be kind to her little boy," said the man, in a voice trembling with emotion.
Are tears unmanly?—No.
The shining drops that rolled from that man's eyes, and sparkled adown his dusky cheeks, on hearing the unfortunate woman's prayer for her children, proved that he was not a brute, but a man,—a man with a soul that millions might envy.
After leaving the place where the woman was buried, Golah walked up to Colin; and, dragging him to his feet, led him away to the other pit.
His intentions were now evident to all. The two individuals, who had aroused his anger and jealousy, were to be left near each other, buried alive, to perish in this fearful fashion.
"Colin! Colin! what can we do to save you?" exclaimed Harry, in a tone expressing despair and anguish.
"Nothing," answered Colin; "don't attempt it, or you will only bring trouble on yourselves. Leave me to my fate."
At this moment the speaker was thrown into the pit, and held in an upright attitude by Golah, while the black slave proceeded to fill in the earth around him.
Following the philosophical example set by the woman, Colin made no useless resistance; and was soon submerged under the sand piled up to his shoulders. His companions sat gazing with speechless horror, all suffering the combined anguish of shame, regret, and despair.
The sheik was now ready to depart; and ordered the slave who had been assisting him in his diabolical work to mount the camel formerly ridden by the woman who was thus entombed. The black obeyed, pleased to think that his late task was to be so agreeably rewarded; but a sudden change came over his features when Golah and Fatima passed up the three children, and placed them under his care.
Golah had but one more act to perform before leaving the spot. It was an act worthy of himself, although suggested by Fatima.
After filling a bowl about half full of water, he placed it midway between Colin and the woman, but so distant from each that neither could possibly reach it!
This Satanic idea was executed with the design of tantalizing the sufferers in their dying hours with the sight of that element the want of which would soon cause them the most acute anguish. By the side of the bowl he also placed a handful of figs.
"There," he tauntingly exclaimed; "I leave you two together, and with more food and drink than you will ever consume. Am I not kind? What more can you ask? Bismillah! God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet; and I am Golah, the kind, the just!"
Saying this, he gave orders to resume the march.
"Don't move!" exclaimed Terence; "we will give him some trouble yet."
"Of course we'll not go, and leave Colin there," said Harry. "The sheik is too avaricious to kill all his slaves. Don't move a step, Bill, and we may have Colly liberated yet."
"I shall do as you say, ov coorse," said Bill; "but I expect we shall 'ave to go. Golah has got a way of making a man travel, whether he be willing or not."
All started forward from the place but the three white slaves and the two whom Golah intended to remain.
"Cheer up, lad," said Bill to Colin; "we'll never go, and leave you there."
"Go on, go on!" exclaimed Colin. "You can do me no good, and will only injure yourselves."
Golah had mounted his camel and ridden forward, leaving to his two guards the task of driving on the slaves; and, as if apprehensive of trouble from them, he had directed Terence, Harry, Bill, and the Krooman to be brought on with their hands tied behind them.
The three refused to move; and when all efforts to get them on had been tried in vain, the guards made a loud appeal to their sheik.
Golah came riding back in a great rage.
Dismounting from his camel he drew the ramrod from his musket; then, rushing up to Terence, who was the nearest to him, administered to him a shower of blows that changed the color of his shirt from an untidy white to the darker hue of blood.
The two guards, following the example of their lord and master, commenced beating Harry and Bill, who, unable to make any resistance, had to endure the torture in silence.
"Go on, my friends!" exclaimed Colin; "for God's sake, go, and leave me! You cannot do anything to avert my fate!"
Colin's entreaties, as well as the torture from the blows they received, were alike without effect. His shipmates could not bring themselves to desert their old comrade, and leave him to the terrible death that threatened him.
Rushing up to Bill and Harry, Golah caught hold of each, and hurled them to the ground by the side of Terence. Keeping all three together, he now ordered a camel to be led up; and the order was instantly obeyed by one of the guards. The halter was then taken from the head of the animal.
"We 'ave got to go now," said Bill. "He's going to try the same dodge as beat me the other day. I shall save him the trouble."
Bill tried to rise, but was prevented. He had refused to walk when earnestly urged to do so; and now, when he was willing to go on, he had to wait the pleasure of his owner as to the manner in which his journey should be continued.
While Golah was fastening the rope to Harry's hands, the sharp shrill voice of Fatima called his attention to some of the people who had gone on before.
The two women, who led the camels loaded with articles taken from the wreck, had advanced about three hundred yards from the place; and were now, along with the black slaves, surrounded by a party of men mounted on maherries and horses.
Golah's fear of the Arabs met by the well had not been without a cause. His forced night march, to avoid meeting them again, had not secured the object for which it had been made.
Approaching from the direction of the rising sun, the Arabs had not been discovered in the distance; and Golah, occupied in overcoming the obstinate resistance of the white slaves, had allowed them to come quite near before they had been observed by him.
Leaving his captives, the sheik seized his musket; and, followed by his son and brother-in-law, rushed forward to protect his wives and property.
He was too late. Before he could reach them they were in the possession of others; and as he drew near the spot where they had been captured, he saw a dozen muskets presented towards himself, and heard some one loudly commanding him, in the name of the Prophet, to approach in peace!
Golah had the discretion to yield to a destiny that could not be averted,—the misfortune of being made a prisoner and plundered at the same time.
Calmly saying, "It is the will of God," he sat down, and invited his captors to a conference on the terms of capitulation.
As soon as the caravan had fallen into the possession of the robbers, the Krooman's hands were unbound by his companion, and he hastened to the relief of the white slaves.
"Golah no our massa now," said he, while untying Harry's wrists; "our massa is Arab dat take us norf. We get free. Dat why dis Arab no buy us,—he know us he hab for noting."
The cords were quickly untied, and the attention of the others was now turned to disinterring Colin and the woman from their living graves.
To do this, Harry wanted to use the water-bowl the sheik had left for the purpose of tantalizing his victims with the sight of its contents.
"Here, drink this water," said he, holding the vessel to Colin's lips. "I want to make use of the dish."
"No, no; dig me out without that," answered Colin. "Leave the water as it is; I have a particular use for it when I get free. I wish the old sheik to see me drink it."
Bill, Harry, and the Krooman set to work: and Colin and the woman were soon uncovered and dragged out. Terence was then awakened to consciousness by a few drops of the water poured over his face.
Owing to the cramped position in which he had been placed and so long held, Colin was for a few minutes unable to walk. They waited, to give him time to recover the use of his limbs. The slave who had the care of the woman's children was now seen coming back with them, and the woman ran to meet him.
The delight of the wretched mother at again embracing her offspring was so great, that the gentle-souled Krooman was once more affected to tears.
In the conference with the Arab robbers, Golah was unable to obtain the terms he fancied a sheik should be entitled to.
They offered him two camels and the choice of one wife out of the three, on condition he should go back to his own country, and return to the desert no more.
These terms Golah indignantly refused, and declared that he would rather die in defence of his rights.
Golah was a pure negro, and one of a class of traders much disliked by the Arabs. He was a lawless intruder on their grounds,—a trespasser upon their special domain, the Great Desert. He had just acquired a large amount of wealth in goods and slaves, that had been cast on their coast; and these they were determined he should not carry back with him to his own country.
Though he was as much a robber as themselves, they had no sympathies with him, and would not be satisfied with merely a share of his plunder. They professed to understand all his doings in the past; and accused him of not being a fair trader!
They told him that he never came upon the desert with merchandise to exchange, but only with camels, to be driven away, laden with property justly belonging to them, the real owners of the land.
They denied his being a true believer in the Prophet; and concluded their talk by declaring that he should be thankful for the liberal terms they had offered him.
Golah's opposition to their proposal became so demonstrative, that the Arabs were obliged to disarm and bind him; though this was not accomplished without a fierce struggle, in which several of his adversaries were overthrown.
A blow on the head with the stock of a musket at length reduced him to subjection, after which his hands were fast tied behind his back.
During the struggle, Golah's son was prevented from interfering in behalf of his father, by the black slaves who had been so long the victims of his cruel care; while the brother-in-law, as well as Fatima and the third wife, remained passive spectators of the scene.
On Golah being secured, the white slaves, with old Bill at their head, came up and voluntarily surrendered themselves to their new masters.
Colin had in his hands the bowl of water, and the dried figs that had been placed beside it.
Advancing towards Golah, he held the figs up before his eyes, and then, with a nod and an expression that seemed to say, "Thank you for this," he raised the bowl to his lips with the intention of drinking.
The expression on the sheik's features became Satanic, but suddenly changed into a glance of pleasure, as one of the Arabs snatched the vessel out of Colin's hands, and instantly drank off its contents.
Colin received the lesson meekly, and said not a word.
The Arabs speedily commenced making arrangements for leaving the place. The first move was to establish a communication between Golah and the saddle of one of his camels.
This was accomplished by using a rope as a medium; and the black giant was compelled to walk after the animal with his hands tied behind him,—in the same fashion as he had lately set for Sailor Bill.
His wives and slaves seemed to comprehend the change in their fortunes, and readily adapted their conduct to the circumstances.
The greatest transformation of all was observable in the behavior of the favorite Fatima.
Since his capture she had kept altogether aloof from her late lord, and showed not the slightest sympathy for his misfortunes.
By her actions she seemed to say: "The mighty Golah has fallen, and is no longer worthy of my distinguished regard."
Very different was the behavior of the woman whom the cruel sheik would have left to die a lingering death. Her husband's misfortune seemed to have awakened within her a love for the father of her children: and her features, as she gazed upon the captive,—who, although defeated, was unsubdued in spirit,—wore a mingled expression of pity and grief.
Hungry, thirsty, weary and bleeding—enslaved on the Great Desert, still uncertain of what was to be their fate, and doubtful of surviving much longer the hardships they might be forced to endure—our adventurers were far from being happy; but, with all their misery, they felt joyful when comparing their present prospects with those before them but an hour ago.
With the exception of Golah, the Arabs had no trouble with their captives. The white and black slaves knew they were travelling towards the well; and the prospect of again having plenty of water was sufficient inducement to make them put forth all their strength in following the camels.
Early in the evening a short halt was made; when each of the company was served with about half a pint of water from the skins. The Arabs, expecting to reach the well soon after, could afford to be thus liberal; but the favor so granted, though thankfully received by the slaves was scornfully refused by their late master—the giant bodied and strong-minded Golah.
To accept of food and drink from his enemies in his present humiliating position—bound and dragged along like a slave—was a degradation to which he scorned to submit.
On Golah contemptuously refusing the proffered cup of water, the Arab who offered it simply ejaculated, "Thank God!" and then drank it himself.
The well was reached about an hour after midnight; and after quenching their thirst, the slaves were allowed to go to rest and sleep,—a privilege they stood sorely in need of having been over thirty hours afoot, upon their cheerless and arduous journey.
AN UNFAITHFUL WIFE.
On waking up the next morning, our adventurers were gratified with a bit of intelligence communicated by the Krooman: that they were to have a day of rest. A camel was also to be killed for food.
The Arabs were going to divide amongst themselves the slaves taken from Golah; and the opportunity was not to be lost of recruiting their strength for a long journey.
As Sailor Bill reflected upon their sufferings since leaving that same place two days before, he expressed regret that they had not been captured before leaving the well, and thus spared the horrors they had endured.
Stimulated by the remembrance of so much suffering needlessly incurred, he asked the Krooman to explain the conduct of their new masters.
The Krooman's first attempt at satisfying his curiosity was to state, that the Arabs had acted after a manner peculiar to themselves,—in other words, that it was "a way they had."
The old sailor was not satisfied with this answer; and pressed for a further explanation.
He was then told that the robbers on the desert were always in danger of meeting several caravans at a watering-place; and that any act of violence committed there would bring upon the perpetrators everlasting disgrace, as well as the enmity of all desert travellers. The Krooman explained himself by saying, that should a caravan of a hundred men arrive at the well, they would not now interfere in behalf of Golah, but would only recognize him as a slave. On the contrary, had they found him engaged in actual strife with the robbers they would have assisted him.
This was satisfactory to all but Bill. Even Colin, who had been buried alive, and Terence, who had been so unmercifully beaten, were pleased at their change of masters on any terms; but the old sailor, sailor-like, would not have been himself without some cause of complaint.
Before their newly acquired wealth could be divided, the Arabs had to come to some resolution as to the disposal of the black sheik; who still remained so unmanageable that he had to be kept bound, with a guard placed over him.
The Arabs could not agree amongst themselves as to what should be done with him. Some of them urged that, despite the color of his skin, he might be a true believer in the Prophet; and that, notwithstanding his manner of trading and acquiring wealth—a system nearly as dishonest as their own—he was entitled to his liberty, with a certain portion of his property.
Others claimed that they had a perfect right to add him and his large family to the number of their slaves.
He was not an Arab, but an Ethiopian, like most of his following; and, as a slave, would bring a high price in any of the markets where men were bought and sold.
Those who argued thus were in the minority; and Golah was at length offered his wives and their children, with a couple of camels and his scimitar.
This offer the black sheik indignantly refused,—much to the astonishment of those who had been so eloquent in his behalf.
His decision produced another debate; in which the opinions of several of his captors underwent such a change, that it was finally determined to consider him as one of the slaves.
Every article that had been obtained from the wreck was now exposed to view, and a fixed price set upon it.
The slaves were carefully examined and valued,—as well as the camels, muskets, and everything that had belonged to Golah or his dependants.
When these preliminary arrangements had been completed, the Arabs proceeded to an equitable partition of the property.
This proved a very difficult matter to manage, and occupied their time for the rest of the day. Three or four would covet the same article; and long and noisy discussions would take place before the dispute could be settled to their mutual satisfaction.
The Krooman, who understood the desert language, was attentive to all that transpired; and from time to time informed the white slaves of what was being done.
At an early period in the discussions, he discovered that each of the four was to fall to different masters.
"You and me," said he to Harry, "we no got two massas—only one."
His words were soon after proved to be true. They were carried apart from each other, evidently with the designs of being appropriated by different owners; and the fear that they might also be separated again came over them.
When the slaves, camels, tents, and articles that had been gathered from the wreck were distributed amongst the eleven Arabs, each one took the charge of his own; but there still remained Golah, his wives and their children, to be disposed of.
No one seemed desirous of becoming the owner of the black sheik and his wives. Even those who had said that he would make a valuable slave, appeared unwilling to take him, although induced to do so by the taunts of their companions.
The fact was, that they were afraid of him. He would be too difficult to manage; and none of them wished to be the master of one who obstinately refused both food and drink, and who so defiantly invoked upon the heads of his captors the curse of Mahomet, and swore by the beard of the Prophet that the moment his hands were free, he would kill the man who should dare to own or claim him as a slave.
Golah, with all his faults, was neither cunning nor deceitful, and, having a spirit too great to affect submission, he did not intend to yield.
He was arrogant, cruel, avaricious, and vindictive; but the wrongs he did were always accomplished in a plain, open-handed way, and never by stratagem or treachery.
By accepting the terms the Arabs had offered him, his strength, courage, and unconquerable will might afterwards have enabled him to obtain revenge upon his captors, and regain a portion of his property; but it was not in his nature to sham submission, even for the sake of gaining a future advantage.
As not one of the Arabs was willing to accept of him, at the value at which he had been appraised, or to allow another to have him for less, it was finally decided that he should be retained as the common property of all, until he could be sold to some other tribe, when a distribution might be made of the proceeds of the sale. His wives and children were to be disposed of in like manner.
This arrangement was satisfactory to all but Golah himself, who expressed himself greatly displeased with it. Nevertheless, he seemed a little disposed to yield to circumstances; for, soon after the decision of his captors was made known to him, he called to Fatima, and commanded her to bring him a bowl of water.
The favorite refused, under the plea that she had been forbidden to give him anything.
This was true; for, as he had declined to accept of anything at the hands of those claiming to be his masters, they had determined to starve him into submission.
Fatima's refusal to obey him caused Golah his greatest chagrin. Ever accustomed to prompt and slavish obedience from others, the idea of his own wife—his favorite too—denying his modest request, almost drove him frantic.
"I am your husband," he cried, "and whom should you obey but me? Fatima! I command you to bring me some water!"
"And I command you not to do it," said the Arab sheik, who, standing near by, had heard the order.
Fatima was an artful, selfish woman, who had gained some influence over her husband by flattering his vanity, and professing a love she had never felt.
She had acted with slavish obedience to him when he was all-powerful; but now that he was himself a slave, her submission had been transferred with perfect facility to the chief of the band who had captured him.
It was now that Golah began to realize the fact that he was a conquered man.
His heart was nearly bursting with rage, shame, and disappointment; for nothing could so plainly awaken him to the comprehension of his real position, as the fact that Fatima, his favorite, she who had ever professed for him so much love and obedience, now refused to attend to his simplest request.
After making one more violent and ineffectual effort at breaking his bonds, he sank down upon the earth and remained silent—bitterly contemplating the degraded condition into which he had fallen.
The Krooman, who was a very sharp observer of passing events, and had an extensive knowledge of peculiar specimens of human nature, closely watched the behavior of the black sheik.
"He no like us," he remarked to the whites. "He nebba be slave. Bom-by you see him go dead."
TWO FAITHFUL WIVES.
While Golah's mind appeared to be stunned almost to unconsciousness by the refusal of Fatima to obey his orders, his other two wives were moving about, as if engaged in some domestic duty.
Presently the woman he had buried in the sand was seen going towards him with a calabash of water, followed by the other who carried a dish of sangleh.
One of the Arabs perceiving their intention, ran up, and, in an angry tone, commanded them to retire to their tents. The two women persisted in their design, and in order to prevent them, without using violence, the Arab offered to serve the food and drink himself.
This they permitted him to do; but when the water was offered to Golah it was again refused.
The black sheik would not receive either food or drink from the hand of a master.
The sangleh was then consumed by the Arab with a real or sham profession of gratitude; the water was poured into a bucket, and given to one of the camels; and the two calabashes were returned to the women.
Neither a keen longing for food, nor a burning thirst for water, could divert Golah's thoughts from the contemplation of something that was causing his soul extreme anguish.
His physical tortures seemed, for the time, extinguished by some deep mental agony.
Again the wives—the unloved ones—advanced towards him, bearing water and food; and again the Arab stepped forward to intercept them. The two women persisted in their design, and, while opposing the efforts of the Arab to turn them back, they called on the two youths, the relatives of the black sheik, as also on Fatima, to assist them.
Of the three persons thus appealed to, only Golah's son obeyed their summons; but his attempt to aid the women was immediately frustrated by the Arab, who claimed him as a slave, and who now commanded him to stand aside. His command having no effect, the Arab proceeded to use force. At the risk of his life the youth resisted. He dared to use violence against a master—a crime that on the desert demands the punishment of death.
Aroused from his painful reverie by the commotion going on around him, Golah, seeing the folly of the act, shouted to his son to be calm, and yield obedience; but the youth, not heeding the command of his father, continued his resistance. He was just on the point of being cut down, when the Krooman ran forward, and pronouncing in Arabic two words signifying "father and son," saved the youth's life. The Arab robber had sufficient respect for the relationship to stay his hand from committing murder; but to prevent any further trouble with the young fellow, he was seized by several others, fast bound, and flung to the ground by the side of his father.
The two women, still persisting in their design to relieve the wants of their unfortunate husband, were then knocked down, kicked, beaten, and finally dragged inside the tents.
This scene was witnessed by Fatima; who, instead of showing sympathy, appeared highly amused by it,—so much so as even to give way to laughter! Her unnatural behavior once more roused the indignation of her husband.
The wrong of being robbed—the humiliation of being bound—the knowledge that he himself, along with his children, would be sold into slavery—the torture of hunger and thirst—were sources of misery no longer heeded by him; all were forgotten in the contemplation of a far greater anguish.
Fatima, the favorite, the woman to whom his word should have been law,—the woman who had always pretended to think him something more than mortal,—now not only shunning but despising him in the midst of his misfortunes!
This knowledge did more towards subduing the giant than all his other sufferings combined.
"Old Golah looks very down in the mouth," remarked Terence to his companions. "If it was not for the beating he gave me yesterday, I could almost pity him. I made an oath, at the time he was thwacking me with the ramrod, that if my hands were ever again at liberty, I'd see if it was possible to kill him; but now that they are free, and his are bound, I've not the heart to touch him, bad as he is."
"That is right, Terry," said Bill; "it's only wimin an' bits o' boys as throws wather on a drowned rat,—not as I mane to say the owld rascal is past mischief yet. I believe he'll do some more afore the Devil takes 'im intirely; but I mane that Him as sits up aloft is able to do His own work without your helping Him."
"You speak truth, Bill," said Harry; "I don't think there is any necessity for seeking revenge of Golah for his cruel treatment of us; he is now as ill off as the rest of us."
"What is that you say?" inquired Colin. "Golah like one of us? Nothing of the kind. He has more pluck, endurance, obstinacy, and true manly spirit about him than there is in the four of us combined."
"Was his attempt to starve you dictated by a manly spirit?" asked Harry.
"Perhaps not, but it was the fault of the circumstances under which he has been educated. I don't think of that now; my admiration of the man is too strong. Look at his refusing that drink of water when it had been several times offered him!"
"There is something wonderful about him, certainly," assented Harry; "but I don't see anything in him to admire."
"No more do I," said Bill. "He might be as comfortable now as we are; and I say a man's a fool as won't be 'appy when he can."