THE ARABS AT HOME.
Soon after encountering the locusts, the kafila came upon a well-beaten road, running through a fertile country, where hundreds of acres of barley could be seen growing on both sides.
That evening, for some reason unknown to the slaves, their masters did not halt at the usual hour. They saw many walled villages, where dwelt the proprietors of the barley fields; but hurried past them without stopping either for water or food—although their slaves were sadly in need of both.
In vain the latter complained of thirst, and begged for water. The only reply to their entreaties was a harsh command to move on faster, frequently followed by a blow.
Towards midnight, when the hopes and strength of all were nearly exhausted, the kafila arrived at a walled village, where a gate was opened to admit his slaves. The old sheik then informed them that they should have plenty of food and drink, and would be allowed to rest for two or three days in the village.
A quantity of water was then thickened with barley meal; and of this diet they were permitted to have as much as they could consume.
It was after night when they entered the gate of the village, and nothing could be seen. Next morning they found themselves in the centre of a square enclosure surrounded by about twenty houses, standing within a high wall. Flocks of sheep and goats, with a number of horses, camels, and donkeys, were also within the inclosure.
Jim informed his companions that most of the Saaeran Arabs have fixed habitations, where they dwell the greater part of the year,—generally walled towns, such as the one they had now entered.
The wall is intended for a protection against robbers, at the same time that it serves as a pen to keep their flocks from straying or trespassing on the cultivated fields during the night time.
It was soon discovered that the Arabs had arrived at their home; for as soon as day broke, they were seen in company with their wives and families. This accounted for their not making halt at any of the other villages. Being so near their own, they had made an effort to reach it without extending their journey into another day.
"I fear we are in the hands of the wrong masters for obtaining our freedom," said Jim to his companions. "If they were traders, they might take us farther north and sell us; but it's clear they are not! They are graziers, farmers, and robbers, when the chance arises,—that's what they be! While waiting for their barley to ripen, they have been on a raiding expedition to the desert, in the hope of capturing a few slaves, to assist them in reaping their harvest."
Jim's conjecture was soon after found to be correct. On the old sheik being asked when he intended taking his slaves on to Swearah, he answered:—
"Our barley is now ripe, and we must not leave it to spoil. You must help us in the harvest, and that will enable us to go to Swearah all the sooner."
"Do you really intend to take your slaves to Swearah?" asked the Krooman.
"Certainly!" replied the sheik. "Have we not promised? But we cannot leave our fields now. Bismillah! our grain must be gathered."
"It is just as I supposed," said Jim. "They will promise anything. They do not intend taking us to Mogador at all. The same promise has been made to me by the same sort of people a score of times."
"What shall we do?" asked Terence.
"We must do nothing," answered Jim. "We must not assist them in any way, for the more useful we are to them the more reluctant they will be to part with us. I should have obtained my liberty years ago, had I not tried to gain the good-will of my Arab masters, by trying to make myself useful to them. That was a mistake, and I can see it now. We must not give them the slightest assistance in their barley-cutting."
"But they will compel us to help them?" suggested Colin.
"They cannot do that if we remain resolute; and I tell you all that you had better be killed at once than submit. If we assist in their harvest, they will find something else for us to do, and your best days, as mine have been, will be passed in slavery! Each of you must make himself a burden and expense to whoever owns him, and then we may be passed over to some trader who has been to Mogador, and knows that he can make money by taking us there to be redeemed. That is our only chance. These Arabs don't know that we are sure to be purchased for a good price in any large seaport town, and they will not run any risk in taking us there. Furthermore, these men are outlaws, desert robbers, and I don't believe that they dare enter the Moorish dominions. We must get transferred to other hands, and the only way to do that is to refuse work."
Our adventurers agreed to be guided by Jim's counsels, although confident that they would experience much difficulty in following them.
Early on the morning of the second day after the Arabs reached their home, all the slaves, both white and black, were roused from their slumbers; and after a spare breakfast of barley-gruel, were commanded to follow their masters to the grain fields, outside the walls of the town.
"Do you want us to work?" asked Jim, addressing himself directly to the old sheik.
"Bismillah! Yes!" exclaimed the Arab. "We have kept you too long in idleness. What have you done, or who are you, that we should maintain you? You must work for your living, as we do ourselves!"
"We cannot do anything on land," said Jim. "We are sailors, and have only learnt to work on board a ship."
"By Allah, you will soon learn! Come, follow us to the barley fields!"
"No; we have all agreed to die rather than work for you! You promised to take us to Swearah; and we will go there or die. We will not be slaves any longer!"
Most of the Arabs, with their wives and children, had now assembled around the white men, who were ordered instantly to move on.
"It will not do for us to say we will not or can't move on," said Jim, speaking to his companions in English. "We must go to the field. They can make us do that; but they can't make us work. Go quietly to the field; but don't make yourselves useful when you get there."
This advice was followed; and the Boy Slaves soon found themselves by the side of a large patch of barley, ready for the reaping-hook. A sickle of French manufacture was then placed in the hands of each, and they were instructed how to use them.
"Never mind," said Jim. "Go to work with a will, mates! We'll show them a specimen of how reaping is done aboard ship!"
Jim proceeded to set an example by cutting the grain in a careless manner—letting the heads fall in every direction, and then trampling them under foot as he moved on.
The same plan was pursued by his brother Bill, the Krooman, and Harry Blount.
In the first attempt to use the sickle, Terence was so awkward as to fall forward and break the implement into two pieces.
Colin behaved no better: since he managed to cut one of his fingers, and then apparently fainted away at the sight of the blood.
The forenoon was passed by the Arabs in trying to train their slaves to the work, but in this they were sadly unsuccessful.
Curses, threats, and blows were expended upon them to no purpose, for the Christian dogs seemed only capable of doing much harm and no good. During the afternoon they were allowed to lie idle upon the ground, and watch their masters cutting the barley; although this indulgence was purchased at the expense of lacerated skins and aching bones. Nor was this triumph without the cost of further suffering: for they were not allowed a mouthful of food or a drop of water, although an abundance of both had been distributed to the other laborers in the field.
All five, however, remained obstinate; withstanding hunger and thirst, threats, cursings, and stripes,—each one disdaining to be the first to yield to the wishes of their Arab masters.
WORK OR DIE.
That night, after being driven within the walls of the town, the white slaves, along with their guard and the Krooman, were fastened in a large stone building partly in ruins, that had been recently used as a goat-pen.
They were not allowed a mouthful of food nor a drop of water, and sentinels walked around all night to prevent them from breaking out of their prison.
No longer targets for the beams of a blazing sun, they were partly relieved from their sufferings; but a few handfuls of barley they had managed to secrete and bring in from the field, proved only sufficient to sharpen an appetite which they could devise no means of appeasing.
A raging thirst prevented them from having much sleep; and, on being turned out next morning, and ordered back to the barley fields, weak with hunger and want of sleep, they were strongly tempted to yield obedience to their masters.
The black slaves had worked well the day before; and, having satisfied their masters, had received plenty of food and drink.
Their white companions in misery saw them eating their breakfast before being ordered to the field.
"Jim," said Sailor Bill, "I've 'alf a mind to give in. I must 'ave somethin' to heat an' drink. I'm starvin' all over."
"Don't think of it, William," said his brother. "Unless you wish to remain for years in slavery, as I have done, you must not yield. Our only hope of obtaining liberty is to give the Arabs but one chance of making anything by us,—the chance of selling us to our countrymen. They won't let us die,—don't think it! We are worth too much for that. They will try to make us work if they can; but we are fools if we let them succeed."
Again being driven to the field, another attempt was made by the Arabs to get some service out of them.
"We can do nothing now," said Jim to the old sheik; "we are dying with hunger and thirst. Our life has always been on the sea, and we can do nothing on land."
"There is plenty of food for those who earn it," rejoined the sheik; "and we cannot give those food who do not deserve it."
"Then give us some water."
"Allah forbid! We are not your servants to carry water for you."
All attempts to make the white slaves perform their task having failed, they were ordered to sit down in the hot sun; where they were tantalized with the sight of the food and water of which they were not permitted to taste.
During the forenoon of the day, all the eloquence Jim could command was required to prevent his brother from yielding. The old man-o'-war's-man was tortured by extreme thirst, and was once or twice on the eve of selling himself in exchange for a cooling draught.
Long years of suffering on the desert had inured Jim to its hardships; and not so strongly tempted as the others, it was easier for him to remain firm.
Since falling into the company of his countrymen, his hope of freedom had revived, and he was determined to make a grand effort to regain it.
He knew that five white captives were worth the trouble of taking to some seaport frequented by English ships; and he believed, if they refrained from making themselves useful, there was a prospect of their being thus disposed of.
Through his influence, therefore, the refractory slaves remained staunch in their resolution to abstain from work.
Their masters now saw that they were better off in the field than in the prison. They could not be prevented from obtaining a few heads of the barley, which they greedily ate, nor from obtaining a little moisture by chewing the roots of the weeds growing around them.
As soon as this was noticed, two of the Arabs were sent to conduct them back to the place where they had been confined on the night before.
It was with the utmost exertion that Sailor Bill and Colin were able to reach the town; while the others, with the exception of Jim, were in a very weak and exhausted state. Hunger and thirst were fast subduing them—in body, if not in spirit.
On reaching the door of the goat-pen, they refused to go in, all clamoring loudly for food and water.
Their entreaties were met with the declaration: that it was the will of God that those who would not work should suffer starvation.
"Idleness," argued their masters, "is always punished by ill-health"; and they wound up by expressing their thanks that such was the case.
It was not until the two Arabs had obtained the assistance of several of the women and boys of the village that they succeeded in getting the white slaves within the goat-pen.
"Jim, I tell you I can't stand this any longer," said Sailor Bill. "Call an' say to 'em as I gives in, and will work to-morrow, if they will let me have water."
"And so will I," said Terence. "There is nothing in the future to compensate for this suffering, and I can endure it no longer."
"Nor will I," exclaimed Harry; "I must have something to eat and drink immediately. We shall all be punished in the next world for self-murder in this unless we yield."
"Courage! patience!" exclaimed Jim. "It is better to suffer for a few hours more than to remain all our lives in slavery."
"What do I care for the future?" muttered Terence; "the present is everything. He is a fool who kills himself to-day to keep from being hungry ten years after. I will try to work to-morrow, if I live so long."
"Yes, call an' tell 'em, Jem, as 'ow we gives in, an' they'll send us some refreshment," entreated the old sailor. "It ain't in human nature to die of starvation if one can 'elp it."
But neither Jim nor the Krooman would communicate to the Arabs the wishes of their companions; and the words and signals the old sailor made to attract the attention of those outside were unheeded.
Early in the evening, both Colin and the Krooman also expressed themselves willing to sacrifice the future for the present.
"We have nothing to do with the future," said Colin; in answer to Jim's entreaties that they should remain firm. "The future is the care of God, and we are only concerned with the present. We ought to promise anything if we can obtain food by it."
"I tink so too now," said the Krooman; "for it am worse than sure dat if we starve now we no be slaves bom by."
"They will not quite starve us to death," said Jim. "I have told you before that we are worth too much for that. If we will not work they will sell us, and we may reach Mogador. If we do work, we may stay here for years. I entreat you to hold out one day longer."
"I cannot," answered one.
"Nor I," exclaimed another.
"Let us first get something to eat, and then take our liberty by force," said Terence, "I fancy that if I had a drink of water, I could whip all the Arabs on earth."
"And so could I," said Colin.
"And I, too," added Harry Blount.
Sailor Bill had sunk upon the floor, hardly conscious of what the others were saying; but, partly aroused by the word water, repeated it, muttering, in a hoarse whisper, "Water! Water!"
The Krooman and the three youths joined in the cry; and then all, as loudly as their parched throats would permit, shouted the word, "Water! Water!"
The call for water was apparently unheeded by the Arab men, but it was evidently music to many of the children of the village, for it attracted them to the door of the goat-pen, around which they clustered, listening with strong expressions of delight.
Through a long night of indescribable agony, the cry of "Water! Water!" was often repeated in the pen, and at each time in tones fainter and more supplicating than before.
The cry at length became changed from a demand to a piteous prayer.
Next morning, when the Arabs opened the door of the prison, Sailor Bill and Colin were found unable to rise; and the old salt seemed quite unconscious of all efforts made to awaken his attention.
Not till then did Jim's resolution begin to give way. He would now submit to save them from further suffering; but although knowing it was the wish of all that he should tender their submission on the terms the Arabs required, for a while be delayed doing so, in order to discover the course their masters designed adopting towards them.
"Are you Christian dogs willing to earn your food now?" inquired the old sheik, as he entered the goat-pen.
Faint and weak with hunger, nearly mad with thirst, alarmed for the condition of his brother, and pitying the agony of the others, Jim was about to answer the sheik's question in the affirmative; but there was something in the tone in which the question had been put, that determined him to refrain for a little longer.
The earthly happiness of six men might depend upon the next word he should utter, and that word he should not speak without some deliberation.
With an intellect sharpened by torture, Jim turned his gaze from the old sheik upon several other Arabs that had come near.
He could see that they had arrived at some decision amongst themselves, as to what they should do, and that they did not seem much interested in the ultimatum demanded by the sheik's inquiry.
This lack of excitement or interest did not look like further starvation and death; and in place of telling the Arabs that they were willing to submit, Jim informed the old sheik that all were determined to die rather than remain slaves.
"There is not one of us that wishes to live," he added, "except for the purpose of seeing our native land again. Our bodies are now weak, but our spirits are still strong. We will die!"
On receiving this answer, the Arabs departed, leaving the Christians in the pen.
The Krooman, who had been listening during the interview, then faintly called after them to return; but he was stopped by Jim, who still entertained the hope that his firmness would yet be rewarded.
Half an hour passed, and Jim began to doubt again. He might not have correctly interpreted the expressions he had noted upon the faces of the Arabs.
"What did you tell them?" muttered Terence. "Did you tell them that we were willing to work, if they would give us water?"
"Yes—certainly!" answered Jim, now beginning to regret that he had not tendered their submission before it might be too late.
"Then why do they not come and relieve us?" asked Terence, in a whisper—hoarse from despair.
Jim vouchsafed no answer; and the Krooman seemed in too much mental and bodily anguish to heed what had been said.
Shortly after, Jim could hear the flocks being driven out of the town; and looking through a small opening in the wall of the pen, he could see some of the Arabs going out towards the barley fields.
Could it be that he had been mistaken—that the Arabs were going to apply the screw of starvation for another day? Alarmed by this conjecture, he strove to hail them, and bring them back; but the effort only resulted in a hoarse whisper.
"May God forgive me!" thought he. "My brother, as well as all the others, will die before night! I have murdered them, and perhaps myself!"
Driven frantic with the thought, frenzy furnished him with the will and strength to speak out.
His voice could now be heard, for the walls of the stone building rang with the shouts of a madman!
He assailed the door with such force that the structure gave way, and Jim rushed out, prepared to make any promises or terms with their masters, to save the lives he had endangered by his obstinacy.
His submission was not required: for on looking out, two men and three or four boys were seen coming towards the pen, bearing bowls of water, and dishes filled with barley-gruel.
Jim had conquered in the strife between master and man. The old sheik had given orders for the white slaves to be fed.
Jim's frenzy immediately subsided into an excitement of a different nature.
Seizing a calabash of water, he ran to his brother Bill; and raising him into a sitting posture, he applied the vessel to the man-o'-war's-man's lips.
Bill had not strength even to drink, and the water had to be poured down his throat.
Not until all of his companions had drunk, and swallowed a few mouthfuls of the barley-gruel, did Jim himself partake of anything.
The effect of food and water in restoring the energies of a starving man is almost miraculous; and he now congratulated his companions on the success of his scheme.
"It is all right!" he exclaimed. "We have conquered them! We shall not have to reap their harvest! We shall be fed, fattened, and sold; and perhaps be taken to Mogador. We should thank God for bringing us all safely through the trial. Had we yielded, there would have been no hope of ever regaining our liberty!"
Two days elapsed, during which time our adventurers were served with barley-gruel twice a day. They were allowed a sufficient quantity of water, with only the trouble of bringing it from the well, and enduring a good deal of insult and abuse from the women and children whom they chanced to meet on their way.
The second Krooman, who, in a moment of weakness inspired by the torture of thirst, had assisted the other slaves at their task, now tried in vain to get off from working. He came each evening to the pen to converse with his countryman; and at these meetings bitterly expressed his regret that he had submitted.
There was no hope for him now, for he had given proof that he could be made useful to his owners.
On the evening of the second day after they had been relieved from starvation, the white slaves were visited in their place of confinement by three Arabs they had not before seen.
These were well-armed, well-dressed, fine-looking fellows, having altogether a more respectable appearance than any inhabitants of the desert they had yet encountered.
Jim immediately entered into conversation with them; and learned that they were merchants, travelling with a caravan; and that they had claimed the hospitality of the town for that night.
They were willing to purchase slaves; and had visited the pen to examine those their hosts were offering for sale.
"You are just the men we are most anxious to see," said Jim, in the Arabic language, which, during his long residence in the country, he had become acquainted with, and could speak fluently. "We want some merchant to buy us, and take us to Mogador, where we may find friends to ransom us."
"I once bought two slaves," rejoined one of the merchants, "and at great expense took them to Mogador. They told me that their consul would be sure to redeem them; but I found that they had no consul there. They were not redeemed; and I had to bring them away again,—having all the trouble and expense of a long journey."
"Were they Englishmen?" asked Jim.
"I thought so. Englishmen would certainly have been ransomed."
"That is not so certain," replied the merchant; "the English may not always have a consul in Mogador to buy up his countrymen."
"We do not care whether there is one or not!" answered Jim. "One of the young fellows you see here has an uncle—a rich merchant in Mogador, who will ransom not only him, but all of his friends. The three young men you see are officers of an English ship-of-war. They have rich fathers in England,—all of them grand sheiks,—and they were learning to be captains of war-ships, when they were lost on this coast. The uncle of one of them in Mogador will redeem the whole party of us."
"Which is he who has the rich uncle?" inquired one of the Arabs.
Jim pointed to Harry Blount, saying, "That is the youngster. His uncle owns many great vessels, that come every year to Swearah, laden with rich cargoes."
"What is the name of this uncle?"
To give an appearance of truth to his story, Jim knew that it was necessary for some of the others to say something that would confirm it; and turning towards Harry, he muttered, "Master Blount, you are expected to say something—only two or three words—any thing you like!"
"For God's sake, get them to buy us!" said Harry, in complying with the singular request made to him.
Believing that the name he must give to the Arabs should something resemble in sound the words Harry had spoken, Jim told them that the name of the Mogador merchant was "For God's sake buy us."
After repeating these words two or three times, the Arabs were able to pronounce them—after a fashion.
"Ask the young man," commanded one of them, "if he is sure the merchant 'For God's sake bias' will ransom you all?"
"When I am done speaking to you," said Jim, whispering to Harry, "say Yes! nod your head, and then utter some words!"
"Yes!" exclaimed Harry, giving his head an abrupt inclination. "I think I know what you are trying to do, Jim. All right!"
"Yes!" said Jim, turning to the Arab; "the young fellow says that he is quite certain his uncle will buy us all. Our friends at home will repay him."
"But how about the black man?" asked one of the merchants. "He is not an Englishman?"
"No; but he speaks English. He has sailed in English ships, and will certainly be redeemed with the rest."
The Arabs now retired from the pen, after promising to call and see our adventurers early in the morning.
After their departure, Jim related the whole of the conversation to his companions, which had the effect of inspiring them with renewed hope.
"Tell them anything," said Harry, "and promise anything; for I think there is no doubt of our being ransomed, if taken to Mogador, although I'm sure I have no uncle there, and don't know whether there's any English consul at that port."
"To get to Mogador is our only chance," said Jim; "and I wish I were guilty of no worse crime than using deception, to induce some one to take us there. I have a hope that these men will buy us on speculation; and if lies will induce them to do so, they shall have plenty of them from me. And you," continued he, turning to the Krooman, "you must not let them know that you speak their language, or they will not give a dollar for you. When they come here in the morning, you must converse with the rest of us in English,—so that they may have reason to think that you will also be redeemed."
Next morning, the merchants again came to the pen, and the slaves, at their request, arose and walked out to the open space in front, where they could be better examined.
After becoming satisfied that all were capable of travelling, one of the Arabs, addressing Jim, said:—
"We are going to purchase you, if you satisfy us that you are not trying to deceive us, and agree to the terms we offer. Tell the nephew of the English merchant that we must be paid one hundred and fifty Spanish dollars for each of you."
Jim made the communication to Harry; who at once consented that this sum should be paid.
"What is the name of his uncle?" asked one of the Arabs. "Let the young man tell us."
"They wish to know the name of your uncle," said Jim, turning to Harry. "The name I told you yesterday. You must try and remember it; for I must not be heard repeating it to you."
"For God's sake buy us!" exclaimed Harry.
The Arabs looked at each other with an expression that seemed to say, "It's all right!"
"Now," said one of the party, "I must tell you what will be the penalty, if we be deceived. If we take you to Mogador, and find that there is no one there to redeem you, if the young man, who says he has an uncle, be not telling the truth, then we shall cut his throat, and bring the rest of you back to the desert, to be sold into perpetual slavery. Tell him that."
"They are going to buy us," said Jim to Harry Blount; "but if we are not redeemed in Mogador, you are to have your throat cut for deceiving them."
"All right!" said Harry, smiling at the threat, "that will be better than living any longer a slave in the Saaera."
"Now look at the Krooman"; suggested Sailor Bill, "and say something about him."
Harry taking the hint, turned towards the African.
"I hope," said he, "that they will purchase the poor fellow; and that we may get him redeemed. After the many services he has rendered us, I should not like to leave him behind."
"He consents that you may kill the Krooman, if we are not ransomed"; said Jim, speaking to the Arab merchants, "but he does not like to promise more than one hundred dollars for a negro. His uncle might refuse to pay more."
For some minutes the Arabs conversed with each other in a low tone; and then one of them replied, "It is well. We will take one hundred dollars for the negro. And now get ready for the road. We shall start with you to-morrow morning by daybreak."
The merchants then went off to complete their bargain with the old sheik, and make other arrangements for their departure.
For a few minutes the white slaves kept uttering exclamations of delight at the prospect of being once more restored to liberty. Jim then gave them a translation of what he had said about the Krooman.
"I know the Arab character so well," said he, "that I did not wish to agree to all their terms without a little haggling, which prevents them from entertaining the suspicion that we are trying to deceive them. Besides, as the Krooman is not an English subject, there may be great difficulty in getting him redeemed; and we should therefore bargain for him as cheaply as possible."
Not long after the Arab merchants had taken their departure from the pen, a supply of food and drink was served out to them: which, from its copiousness, proved that it was provided at the expense of their new owners.
This beginning augured well for their future treatment; and that night was spent by the Boy Slaves in a state of contentment and repose, greater than they had experienced since first setting foot on the inhospitable shores of the Saaera.
ONWARD ONCE MORE.
Early next morning our adventurers were awakened and ordered to prepare for the road.
The Arab merchants had purchased from their late hosts three donkeys, upon which the white slaves were allowed to ride in turns. Harry Blount, however, was distinguished from the rest. As the nephew of the rich merchant, "For God's sake buy us!" he was deemed worthy of higher favor, and was permitted to have a camel.
In vain he protested against being thus elevated above his companions. The Arabs did not heed his remonstrances, and at a few words from Jim he discontinued them.
"They think that we are to be released from slavery by the money of your relative," said Jim, "and you must do nothing to undeceive them. Not to humor them might awaken their suspicions. Besides, as you are the responsible person of the party,—the one whose throat is to be cut if the money be not found,—you are entitled to a little distinction, as a compensation for extra anxiety."
The Krooman, who had joined the slaves in cutting the grain, was in the field at work when the merchants moved off, and was not present to bid farewell to his more fortunate countryman.
After travelling about twelve miles through a fertile country, much of which was in cultivation, the Arab merchants arrived at a large reservoir of water, where they encamped for the night.
The water was in a stone tank, placed so as to catch all the rain that fell in a long narrow valley, gradually descending from some hills to the northward.
Jim had visited the place before, and told his companions that the tank had been constructed by a man whose memory was much respected, and who had died nearly a hundred years ago.
During the night the Krooman, who had been left behind, entered the encampment, confident in the belief that he had escaped from his taskmasters.
At sunset he had contrived to conceal himself among the barley sheaves until his masters were out of sight, when he had started off on the track taken by the Arab merchants.
He was not allowed long indulgence in his dream of liberty. On the following morning, as the kafila was about to continue its journey, three men were seen approaching on swift camels; and shortly after Rais Abdallah Yessed, and two of his followers rode up.
They were in pursuit of the runaway Krooman, and in great rage at the trouble which he had caused them. So anxious were the Boy Slaves that the poor fellow should continue along with them, that, for their sake, the Arab merchants made a strenuous effort to purchase him; but Rais Abdallah obstinately refused to sell him at anything like a reasonable price. The Krooman had given proof that he could be very useful in the harvest-field; and a sum much greater than had been paid for any of the others, was demanded for him. He was worth more to his present owners than what the Arab merchants could afford to give; and was therefore dragged back to the servitude from which he had hoped to escape.
"You can see now, that I was right," said Jim. "Had we consented to cut their harvest, we should never have had an opportunity of regaining our liberty. Our labor for a single year would have been worth as much to them as the price they received for us, and we should have been held in perpetual bondage."
Jim's companions could perceive the truth of this observation, but not without being conscious that their good fortune was, on their part, wholly undeserved, and that had it not been for him, they would have yielded to the wishes of their late masters.
After another march, the merchants made halt near some wells, around which a large Arab encampment was found already established,—the flocks and herds wandering over the adjacent plain. Here our adventurers had an opportunity of observing some of the manners and customs of this nomadic people.
Here, for the first time, they witnessed the Arab method of making butter.
A goat's skin, nearly filled with the milk of camels, asses, sheep, and goats, all mixed together, was suspended to the ridge pole of a tent, and then swung to and fro by a child, until the butter was produced. The milk was then poured off, and the butter clawed out of the skin by the black dirty fingers of the women.
The Arabs allege that they were the first people who discovered the art of making butter,—though the discovery does not entitle them to any great credit, since they could scarce have avoided making it. The necessity of carrying milk in these skin bags, on a journey, must have conducted them to the discovery. The agitation of the fluid, while being transported on the backs of the camels, producing the result, naturally suggested the idea of bringing it about by similar means when they were not travelling.
At this place the slaves were treated to some barley-cakes, and were allowed a little of the butter; and this, notwithstanding the filthy mode in which it had been prepared, appeared to them the most delicious they had ever tasted.
During the evening, the three merchants, along with several other Arabs, seated themselves in a circle; when a pipe was lit and passed round from one to another. Each would take a long draw, and then hand the pipe to his left-hand neighbor.
While thus occupied, they kept up an animated conversation, in which the word "Swearah" was often pronounced. Swearah of course meant "Mogador."
"They are talking about us," said Jim, "and we must learn for what purpose. I am afraid there is something wrong. Krooman!" he continued, addressing himself to the black, "they don't know that you understand their language. Lie down near them, and pretend to be asleep; but take note of every word they say. If I go up to them they will drive me away."
The Krooman did as desired; and carelessly sauntering near the circle, appeared to be searching for a soft place on which to lay himself for the night.
This he discovered some seven or eight paces from the spot where the Arabs were seated.
"I have been disappointed about obtaining my freedom so many times," muttered Jim, "that I can scarce believe I shall ever succeed. Those fellows are talking about Mogador; and I don't like their looks. Hark! what is that about 'more than you can get in Swearah!' I believe these new Arabs are making an offer to buy us. If so, may their prophets curse them!"
The conversation amongst the Arabs was kept up until a late hour; and during the time it continued, our adventurers were impatiently awaiting the return of the Krooman.
He came at length, after the Arabs had retired to their tents; and all gathered around him, eager to learn what he had heard.
"I find out too much," said he, in answer to their inquiries; "too much, and no much good."
"What was it?"
"Two of you be sold to-morrow."
"No one know. One man examine us all in the morning, but take only two."
After suffering a long lesson teaching the virtue of patience, they learnt from the Krooman that one of those who had been conversing with their masters was a grazier, owning large droves of cattle; and that he had lately been to Swearah.
He had told the merchants that they would not be able to get a large price for their slaves in that place; and that the chances were much against their making more than the actual expenses incurred in so long a journey. He assured the Arab merchants that no Christian consul or foreign merchant in Mogador would pay a dollar more for redeeming six slaves than what they could be made to pay for two or three; that they were not always willing or prepared to pay anything; and that whenever they did redeem a slave, they did not consider his value, but only the time and expense that had been incurred in bringing him to the place.
Under the influence of these representations, the Arab merchants had agreed to sell two of their white slaves to the grazier,—thinking they would get as much for the remaining four as they would by taking all six to the end of the journey.
The owner of the herds was to make his choice in the morning.
"I thought there was a breaker ahead," exclaimed Jim, after the Krooman had concluded his report. "We must not be separated except by liberty or death. Our masters must take us all to Mogador. There is trouble before us yet; but we must be firm, and overcome it. Firmness has saved us once, and may do so again."
After all had promised to be guided in the coming emergency by Jim, they laid themselves along the ground, and sought rest in sleep.
Next morning, while they were eating their breakfast, they were visited by the grazier who was expected to make choice of two of their number.
"Which is the one who speaks Arabic?" he inquired from one of the merchants.
Jim was pointed out, and was at once selected as one of the two to be purchased.
"Tell 'im to buy me, too, Jim," said Bill, "We'll sail in company, you and I, though I don't much like partin' with the young gentlemen here."
"You shall not part either with them or me, if I can help it," answered Jim; "but we must expect some torture. Let all bear it like devils; and don't give in. That's our only chance!"
Glancing his eyes over the other slaves, the grazier selected Terence as the second for whom he was willing to pay a price.
His terms having been accepted by the merchants, they were about concluding the bargain, when they were accosted by Jim.
He assured them that he and his companions were determined to die, before they should be separated,—that none of them would do any work if retained in slavery,—and that all were determined to be taken to Swearah.
The merchants and the buyer only smiled at this interruption; and went on with the negotiation.
In vain did Jim appeal to their cupidity,—reminding them that the merchant, "for God's sake bias," would pay a far higher price for himself and his companions.
His arguments and entreaties failed to change their determination,—the bargain was concluded; and Jim and Terence were made over to their new master.
The merchants then mounted their camels, and ordered the other four to follow them.
Harry Blount, Colin, and Sailor Bill answered this command by sulkily sitting down upon the sand.
Another command from the merchants was given in sharp tones that betrayed their rising wrath.
"Obey them!" exclaimed Jim. "Go on; and Master Terence and I will follow you. We'll stand the brunt of the battle. They shall not hold me here alive!"
Colin and Bill each mounted a donkey, and Harry his camel—the Arab merchants seeming quite satisfied at the result of their slight exhibition of anger.
Jim and Terence attempted to follow them; but their new master was prepared for this; and, at a word of command, several of his followers seized hold of and fast bound both of them.
Jim's threat that they should not hold him alive, had thus proved but an idle boast.
Harry, Colin, and Bill, now turned back, dismounted, and showed their determination to remain with their companions, by sitting down alongside of them.
"These Christian dogs do not wish for liberty!" exclaimed one of the merchants. "Allah forbid that we should force them to accept it. Who will buy them?"
These words completely upset all Jim's plans. He saw that he was depriving the others of the only opportunity they might ever have of obtaining their liberty.
"Go on, go on!" he exclaimed. "Make no further resistance. It is possible they may take you to Mogador. Do not throw away the chance."
"We are not goin' to lave you, Jim," said Bill, "not even for liberty,—leastways, I'm not. Don't you be afeerd of that!"
"Of course we will not, unless we are forced to do so," added Harry. "Have you not said that we must keep together?"
"Have you not all promised to be guided by me?" replied Jim. "I tell you now to make no more resistance. Go on with them if you wish ever to be free!"
"Jim knows what he is about," interposed Colin; "let us obey him."
With some reluctance, Harry and Bill were induced to mount again; but just as they were moving away, they were recalled by Jim, who told them not to leave; and that all must persevere in the determination not to be separated.
"The man has certainly gone mad," reflected Harry Blount, as he turned back once more. "We must no longer be controlled by him; but Terence must not be left behind. We cannot forsake him."
Again the three dismounted, and returning to the spot where Jim and Terence lay fast bound along the sand, sat determinedly down beside them.
The sudden change of purpose and the counter-orders given by Jim were caused by something he had just heard while listening to the conversation of the Arabs.
Seeing that the merchants, rather than have any unnecessary trouble with them, were disposed to sell them all, Jim had been unwilling to deprive his brother and the others of an opportunity of obtaining their freedom. For this reason had he entreated them to leave Terence and himself to their fate.
But just as he had prevailed on Harry and his companion to go quietly, he learnt from the Arabs that the man who had purchased Terence and himself refused to have any more of them; and also that the other Arabs present were either unable or unwilling to buy them.
The merchants, therefore, would have to take them farther before they could dispose of them.
In Jim's mind then revived the hope that, by opposing the wishes of his late masters, he and Terence might be bought back again and taken on to Mogador.
It was this hope that had induced him to recall his companions after urging them to depart.
A few words explained his apparently strange conduct to Harry and Colin, and they promised to resist every attempt made to take them any farther unless all should go in company.
The merchants in vain commanded and entreated that the Christian dogs should move on. They used threats, and then resorted to blows.
Harry, to whom they had hitherto shown much respect, was beaten until his scanty garments were saturated with blood.
Unwilling to see others suffering so much torture unsupported by any selfish desire, Jim again counselled Harry and the others to yield obedience to their masters.
In this counsel he was warmly seconded by Terence.
But Harry declared his determination not to desert his old shipmate Colin, and Bill remained equally firm under the torture; while the Krooman, knowing that his only chance of liberty depended on remaining true to the white slaves, and keeping in their company, could not be made to yield.
Perceiving that all his entreaties—addressed to his brother, Harry, and Colin—could not put an end to the painful scene he was compelled to witness, Jim strove to effect some purpose by making an appeal to his late masters.
"Buy us back, and take us all to Swearah as you promised," said he. "If you do so, we will go cheerfully as we were doing before. I tell you, you will be well paid for your trouble."
One of the merchants, placing some confidence in the truth of this representation, now offered to buy Jim and Terence on his own account; but their new master refused to part with his newly-acquired property.
A crowd of men, women, and children had now gathered around the spot; and from all sides were heard shouts of "Kill the obstinate Christian 'dogs.' How dare they resist the will of true believers!"
This advice was given by those who had no pecuniary interest in the chattels in question; but the merchants, who had invested a large sum in the purchase of the white slaves, had no idea of making such a sacrifice for the gratification of a mere passion.
There was but one way for them to overcome the difficulty that had so unexpectedly presented itself. This was to separate the slaves by force, taking the four along with them; and leaving the other two to the purchaser who would not revoke his bargain.
To accomplish this, the assistance of the bystanders was required and readily obtained.
Harry was first seized and placed on the back of his camel, to which he was firmly bound.
Colin, Bill, and the Krooman were each set astride of a donkey, and then made fast by having their feet tied under the animal's belly.
For a small sum the merchants then engaged two of the Arabs to accompany them and guard the white slaves to the frontier of the Moorish empire, a distance of two days' journey.
While the party was about to move away from the spot, one of the merchants, addressing himself to Jim, made the following observations.
"Tell the young man, the nephew of the merchant, 'For God's sake bias,' that since we have started for Swearah in the belief that his story is true, we shall now take him there whether he is willing or not, and if he has in anyway deceived us, he shall surely die."
"He has not deceived you," said Jim, "take him and the others there, and you will certainly be paid."
"Then why do they not go willingly?"
"Because they do not wish to leave their friends."
"Ungrateful dogs! cannot they be thankful for their own good fortune? Do they take us for slaves, that we should do their will?"
While the conversation was going on, the other two merchants had headed their animals to the road; and in a minute after Harry Blount and Colin had parted with their old messmate Terence, without a hope of ever meeting him again.
And now away for the Moorish frontier.
Away,—trusting that the last hasty promise of the merchant to test their earnest story, and yield to the importunate desires which they had so long cherished, might not be unfulfilled.
Away,—out into the desert again; into that broad, barren wilderness of sand, stretching wearily on as far as eye could reach, and beyond the utmost limit of human steps, where the wild beasts almost fear to tread.
Away,—under the glare of the tropic sun, whose torrid beams fall from heavens that glow like hot walls of brass, and beat down through an atmosphere whose faint undulations in the breath of the desert wind ebb and flow over the parched travellers, like waves of a fiery sea; under a sun that seems to grow ever larger and brighter as the tired eyes, sick with beholding its yellow splendor overflowing all the world, yet turn toward it their fascinated gaze, and faint into burning dryness at its sight.
Away,—from the coolness of city walls, and the dark shadows of narrow, high-built streets, where the sunlight comes only at the height of noon, where men hide within doors as the hot hours draw nigh, and rest in silent chambers, or drowse away the time with tchibouque or narghileh, whose softened odor of the rich Eastern tobacco floats up through perfumed waters and tubes of aromatic woods to leisurely lips, and curls in dim wreaths before restful eyelids half dropping to repose.
Away,—from the association of men in street, lane, bazaar, and market-place. No very profitable or happy association for the poor captives, one might think; and yet not so. For in every group of bystanders, or bevy of passers, they perchance might see him who should prove their angel of deliverance,—a kindly merchant, a new speculator, or even, by some event of gracious fortune, a countryman or a friend.
Away,—from all that they had borne and hoped, and borne and seen and suffered, into the desert whose paths lay invisible to them, mapped out in the keen intellects of their guides and guards, who read the streaming sand of Saaera as sailors read the wilds of sweeping seas, but whose dusky faces, as inscrutable as the barren wastes, revealed no trace of the secret of the path they led,—whether indeed the great Moorish Empire were their destination, or whether they turned their steps to some unknown and untried goal.
Away,—from the hum of business, from the gossip of idlers and the staid speech of a city into the silence of the vast desolation wherein they moved, the only reasoning, thinking beings it contained. Silence all around, unbroken save by the smothered tread of the beasts in their little train, the shouts of the drivers, the chattering of the attendants, the rattling of harness and burdens, and the soft sough of the sand as it sank back into the hot level from which the passing hoofs had disturbed it.
Away, away,—and who shall attempt to paint the feelings of the captives as their wanderings began again? It would need a brilliant pen to convey the sensations with which the voyageur, eager for scenes of adventure and fresh from the hived-up haunts of civilization, would enter upon a desert jaunt, to whom all was full of novelty and interest, whose companions were subjects for curious study, speaking in accents the unfamiliar Oriental cadence of which fell pleasantly upon his ear, and who found in every hour some fresh cause for wonder or pleasure. But a pen of marvellous power and pathos must be invoked to portray the mingled emotions that swayed in swift succession the minds of our Boy Slaves! No charm existed for them in the strangeness of desert scenery, Arab comradeship, and the murmur of Eastern tongues; they had long passed the time for that, while their bitter familiarity with all these made even a deep revulsion of feeling in their sorely tried souls. Hope, fear, doubt, fatigue, anxious yearning, and vague despair,—all in turn swept through their thoughts, even as the dust of their pitiless pathway swept over their scorched faces, and covered with effacing monotony every vestige of their passage. Mine is no such potent pen, and so let us leave them, bound to their beasts of burden, going down from the abodes of men into the depths again; and so let us leave them, journeying ever onward,—away, away!
For the first hour of their journey, Harry, Colin, and Sailor Bill, were borne along fast bound upon the backs of their animals. So disagreeable did they find this mode of locomotion, that the Krooman was requested to inform their masters, that they were willing to accompany them without further opposition, if allowed the freedom of their limbs, this was the first occasion on which the Krooman had made known to the Arab merchants that he could speak their language.
After receiving a few curses and blows for having so long concealed his knowledge of it, the slaves were unbound, and the animals they bestrode were driven along in advance of the others, while the two hired guards were ordered to keep a short watch over them.
The journey was continued until a late hour of the night; when they reached the gate of a high wall enclosing a small town.
Here a long parley ensued, and at first the party seemed likely to be turned back upon their steps to pass the night in the desert, but at last the guardians of the village, being satisfied with the representations of the Arabs, unbarred the portals and let them enter.
After the slaves had been conducted inside, and the gate fastened behind them, their masters, relieved of all anxiety about losing their property, accepted the hospitality of the sheik of the village, and took their departure for his house, directing only that the white slaves should be fed.
After the latter had eaten a hearty meal, consisting of barley-bread and milk; they were conducted to a pen, which they were told was to be their sleeping-place, and there they passed the greater part of the night in fighting fleas.
Never before had either of them encountered these insects, either so large in size or of so keen appetites.
It was but at the hour at which their journey should have been resumed, that they forgot their hopes and cares in the repose of sleep. Weary in body and soul, they slept on till a late hour; and when aroused to consciousness by an Arab bringing some food, they were surprised to see that the sun was high up in the heavens.
Why had they not been awakened before?
Why this delay?
In the mind of each was an instinctive fear that there must be something wrong,—that some other obstacle had arisen, blocking up their road to freedom. Hours passed, and their masters came not near them.
They remained in much anxiety, vainly endeavoring to surmise what had caused the interruption to their journey.
Knowing that the merchants had expressed an intention to conduct them to Mogador as soon as possible, they could not doubt but what the delay arose from some cause affecting their own welfare.
Late in the afternoon they were visited by their masters; and in that interview their worst fears were more than realized.
By the aid of the Krooman, one of the merchants informed Harry that they had been deceived,—that the sheik, of whose hospitality they had been partaking, had often visited Swearah, and was acquainted with all the foreign residents there. He had told them that there was no one of the name "For God sake byas."
He had assured them that they were being imposed upon; and that by taking the white slaves to Swearah, they would certainly lose them.
"We shall not kill you," said one of the masters to Harry, "for we have not had the trouble of carrying you the whole distance; and besides, we should be injuring ourselves. We shall take you all to the borders of the desert, and there sell you for what you will fetch."
Harry told the Krooman to inform his masters that he had freely pledged his existence on the truth of the story he had told them; that he certainly had an uncle and friend in Mogador, who would redeem them all; but that, should his uncle not be in Swearah at the time they should arrive there, it would make no difference, as they would certainly be ransomed by the English Consul. "Tell them," added Harry, "that if they will take us to Swearah, and we are not ransomed as I promised, they shall be welcome to take my life. I will then willingly die. Tell them not to sell us until they have proved my words false; and not to injure themselves and us by trusting too much to the words of another."
To this communication the merchants made reply:—That they had been told that slaves brought from the desert into the Empire of Morocco could, and sometimes did, claim the protection of the government, which set them free without paying anything; and those who were at the expense of bringing them obtained nothing for their trouble.
One of the merchants, whose name was Bo Musem, seemed inclined to listen with some favor to the representations of Harry; but he was overruled by the other two, so that all his assertions about the wealth of his parents at home, and the immense worth he and his comrades were to this country, as officers in its navy, failed to convince his masters that they would be redeemed.
The merchants at length went away, leaving Harry and Colin in an agony of despair; while Sailor Bill and the Krooman seemed wholly indifferent as to their future fate. The prospect of being again taken to the desert, seemed to have so benumbed the intellect of both, as to leave them incapable of emotion.
Hope, fear, and energy seemed to have forsaken the old sailor, who, usually so fond of thinking aloud, had not now sufficient spirit left, even for the anathematizing of his enemies.
Late in the evening of the second night spent within the walls of the town, two travellers knocked at the gate for admittance.
One of them gave a name which created quite a commotion in the village, all seeming eager to receive the owner with some show of hospitality.
The merchants sat up to a late hour in company with these strangers and the sheik of the place. Kids were caught and killed, and a savory stew was soon served up for their guests, while, with coffee, pipes, and many customary civilities, the time slipped quickly by.
Notwithstanding this, they were astir upon the following morning before daybreak, busied in making preparations for their journey.
The slaves, on being allowed some breakfast, were commanded to eat it in all haste, and then assist in preparing the animals for the road.
They were also informed that they were to be taken south, and sold.
"Shall we go, or die?" asked Colin. "I, for one, had rather die than again pass through the hardships of a journey in the desert."
Neither of the others made any reply to this. The spirit of despair had taken too strong a hold upon them.
The merchants themselves were obliged to caparison their animals; and just as they were about to use some strong arguments to induce their refractory slaves to mount, they were told that "El Hajji" ("the pilgrim") wished to see the Christians.
Soon after, one of the strangers who had entered the town so late on the night before was seen slowly approaching.
He was a tall, venerable-looking Arab, with a long white beard reaching down to the middle of his breast. His costume, by its neatness and the general costliness of the articles of which it was composed, bespoke him a man of the better class, and his bearing was nowise inferior to his guise.
Having performed the pilgrimage to the Prophet's Tomb, he commanded the respect and hospitality of all good Mussulmans whithersoever he wandered.
With the Krooman as interpreter, he asked many questions, and seemed to be much interested in the fate of the miserable-looking objects before him.
After his curiosity had been satisfied as to the name of the vessel in which they had reached the country, the time they had passed in slavery, and the manner of their treatment which had produced their emaciated and wretched appearance, he made inquiries about their friends and relatives at home.
Harry informed him that Colin and himself had parents, brothers, and sisters, who were now probably mourning them as lost: that they and their two companions were sure to be ransomed, could they find some one who would take them to Mogador. He also added, that their present masters had promised to take them to that place, but were now prevented from doing so through the fear that they would not be rewarded for their trouble.
"I will do all I can to assist you," said El Hajji, after the Krooman had given the interpretation of Harry's speech. "I owe a debt of gratitude to one of your countrymen, and I shall try to repay it. When in Cairo I was unwell, and starving for the want of food. An officer of an English ship of war gave me a coin of gold. That piece of money proved both life and fortune to me; for with it I was able to continue my journey, and reach my friends. We are all the children of the true God; and it is our duty to assist one another. I will have a talk with your masters."
The old pilgrim then turning to the three merchants, said,—
"My friends, you have promised to take these Christian slaves to Swearah, where they will be redeemed. Are you bad men who fear not God, that your promise should be thus broken?"
"We think they have deceived us," answered one of the merchants, "and we are afraid to carry them within the emperor's dominions for fear they will be taken from us without our receiving anything. We are poor men, and nearly all our merchandise we have given for these slaves. We cannot afford to lose them."
"You will not lose the value of them," said the old man, "if you take them to Swearah. They belong to a country the government of which will not allow its subjects to remain in bondage; and there is not an English merchant in Swearah that would not redeem them. A merchant who should refuse to do so would scarce dare return to his own country again. You will make more by taking them to Swearah than anywhere else."
"But they can give themselves up to the governor when they reach Swearah," urged one of the merchants, "and we may be ordered out of the country without receiving a single cowrie for all. Such has been done before. The good sheik here knows of an Arab merchant who was treated so. He lost all, while the governor got the ransom, and put it in his own pocket."
This was an argument El Hajji was unable to answer but he was not long in finding a plan for removing the difficulty thus presented.
"Do not take them within the Empire of Morocco," said he, "until after you have been paid for them. Two of you can stay with them here, while the other goes to Swearah with a letter from this young man to his friends. You have as yet no proof that he is trying to deceive you; and therefore, as true men, have no excuse for breaking your promise to him. Take a letter to Swearah; and if the money be not paid, then do with them as you please, and the wrong will not rest upon you."
Bo Muzem, one of the merchants, immediately seconded the pilgrim's proposal, and spoke energetically in its favor.
He said that they were but one day's journey from Agadeez, a frontier town of Morocco; and that from there Swearah could be reached in three days.
The merchants for a few minutes held consultation apart, and then one of them announced that they had resolved upon following El Hajji's advice. Bo Muzem should go to Swearah as the bearer of a letter from Harry to his uncle.
"Tell the young man," said one of the merchants, addressing himself to the interpreter, "tell him, from me, that if the ransom be not paid, he shall surely die on Bo Muzem's return. Tell him that."
The Krooman made the communication, and Harry accepted the terms.
A piece of dirty crumpled paper, a reed, and some ink was then placed before Harry; and while the letter was being written, Bo Muzem commenced making preparations for his journey.
Knowing that their only hope of liberty depended on their situation being made known to some countrymen resident in Mogador, Harry took up the pen, and, with much difficulty, succeeded in scribbling the following letter:—
"SIR,—Two midshipmen of H. M. S. —— (lost a few weeks ago north of Cape Blanco), and two seamen are now held in slavery at a small town one day's journey from Santa Cruz. The bearer of this note is one of our masters. His business in Mogador is to learn if we will be ransomed and if he is unsuccessful in finding any one who will pay the money to redeem us, the writer of this note is to be killed. If you cannot or will not pay the money they require (one hundred and fifty dollars for each slave), direct the bearer to some one whom you think will do so.
"There is a midshipman from the same vessel, and another English sailor one day's journey south of this place.
"Perhaps the bearer of this note, Bo Muzem, may be induced to obtain them, so that they also may be ransomed.
This letter Harry folded, and directed to "Any English merchant in Mogador."
By the time it was written, Bo Muzem was mounted, and ready for the road.
After receiving the letter, he wished Harry to be informed once more, that, should the journey to Swearah be fruitless, nothing but his (Harry's) life would compensate him for the disappointment.
After promising to be back in eight days, and enjoining upon his partners to look well after their property during his absence, Bo Muzem took his departure from the town.
BO MUZEM'S JOURNEY.
Although an Arab merchant, Bo Muzem was an honest man,—one who in all business transactions told the truth, and expected to hear it from others.
He pursued his journey towards Mogador with but a faint hope that the representations made by Harry Blount would prove true, and with the determination of taking the life of the latter, should he find himself deceived. He placed more faith in the story told him by the sheik, than in the mere supposition of the pilgrim, that the white slaves would find some one to ransom them. For often,—alas too often!—the hopes which captives have dwelt on for tedious months, until they have believed them true, have proved, when put to the test, but empty and fallacious dreams.
His journey was partly undertaken through a sense of duty. After the promise made to the slaves, he thought it but right to become fully convinced that they would not be redeemed before the idea of taking them to Mogador should be relinquished.
He pressed forward on his journey with the perseverance and self-denial so peculiar to the race. After crossing the spurs of the Atlas Mountain near Santa Cruz, he reached, on the evening of the third day, a small walled town, within three hours ride of Mogador.
Here he stopped for the night, intending to proceed to the city early on the next morning. Immediately after entering the town, Bo Muzem met a person whose face wore a familiar look.
It was the man to whom but a few days before, he had sold Terence and Jim.
"Ah! my friend, you have ruined me," exclaimed the Arab grazier, after their first salutations had passed. "I have lost those two useless Christian dogs you sold me, and I am ruined."
Bo Muzem asked him to explain.
"After your departure," said the grazier, "I tried to get some work out of the infidels; but they would not obey, and I believe they would have died before doing anything to make themselves useful. As I am a poor man, I could not afford to keep them in idleness, nor to kill them, which I had a strong inclination to do. The day after you left me, I received intelligence from Swearah which commanded me to go there immediately on business of importance; and thinking that possibly some Christian fool in that place might give something for their infidel countrymen, I took the slaves along with me.
"They promised that if I would take them to the English Consul, he would pay a large price for their ransom. When we entered Mogador, and reached the Consul's house, the dogs told me that they were free, and defied me trying to take them out of the city, or obtaining anything for my trouble or expense. The governor of Swearah and the Emperor of Morocco are on good terms with the infidel's government, and they also hate us Arabs of the desert. There is no justice there for us. If you take your slaves into the city you will lose them."
"I shall not take them into the empire of Morocco," said Bo Muzem, "until I have first received the money for them."
"You will never get it in Swearah. Their consul will not pay a dollar, but will try to get them liberated without giving you anything."
"But I have a letter from one of my slaves to his uncle,—a nut merchant in Swearah. The uncle must pay the money."
"The slave has lied to you. He has no uncle there, and I can soon convince you that such is the case. There is lying in this place a Mogador Jew, who is acquainted with every infidel merchant in that place, and he also understands the languages they speak. Let him see the letter."
Anxious to be convinced as to whether he was being deceived or not, Bo Muzem readily agreed to this proposition; and in company with the graziers, he repaired to the house where the Jew was staying for the night.
The Jew, on being shown the letter, and asked to whom it was addressed, replied,—
"To any English merchant in Mogador."
"Bismillah!" exclaimed Bo Muzem. "All English merchants cannot be uncles to the young dog who wrote this letter."
"Tell me," added he, "did you ever hear of an English merchant in Swearah named 'For God sake byas?'"
The Jew smiled, and with some difficulty restraining an inclination to laugh outright at the question, gave the Arab a translation of the words, "For God's sake buy us."
Bo Muzem was now satisfied that he had been "sold."
"I shall go no farther," said he, after they had parted with the Jew. "I shall return to my partners. We will kill the Christian dog who wrote the letter, and sell the rest for what we can get for them."
"That is your best plan," rejoined the grazier. "They do not deserve freedom, and may Allah forbid that hereafter any true believers should try to help them to it."
Early the next morning Bo Muzem set out on his return journey, thankful for the good fortune that had enabled him so early to detect the imposture that was being practised upon him.
He was accompanied by the grazier, who chanced to be journeying in the same direction.
"The next Christian slaves I see for sale I intend to buy them," remarked the latter, as they journeyed along.
"Bismallah!" exclaimed Bo Muzem, "that is strange. I thought you had had enough of them?"
"So I have," answered the grazier; "but that's just why I want more of them. I want revenge on the unbelieving dogs; and will buy them for the purpose of obtaining it. I work them until they are too old to do anything and then let them die of hunger."
"Then buy those we have for sale," proposed Bo Muzem. "We are willing to sell them cheap, all but one. The one who wrote this letter I shall kill. I have sworn it by the prophet's beard."
As both parties appeared anxious for a bargain, they soon came to an understanding as to the terms; and the grazier promised to give ten dollars in money, and four head of horses for each of the slaves that were for sale. He also agreed that one of his herdsmen should assist in driving the cattle to any Arab settlement where a market might be found for them.
The simple Bo Muzem had now in reality been "sold," for the story he had been told about the escape of the two slaves, Terence and Jim, was wholly and entirely false.
Six days passed, during which the white slaves were comparatively well treated, far better than at any other time since their shipwreck. They were not allowed to suffer with thirst, and were supplied with nearly as much food as they required.
On the sixth day after the departure of Bo Muzem, they were visited by their masters, accompanied by a stranger, who was a Moor.
They were commanded to get upon their feet; and were then examined by the Moor in a manner that awakened suspicion that he was about to buy them.
The Moor wore a caftan richly embroidered on the breast and sleeves; and confined around the waist with a silken vest or girdle.
A pair of small yellow Morocco-leather boots were seen beneath trowsers of great width, made of the finest satin, and on his head was worn a turban of scarlet silk.
Judging from the respect shown to him by the merchants, he was an individual of much importance. This was also evident from the number of his followers, all of whom were mounted on beautiful Arabian horses, the trappings of which were made from the finest and most delicately shaded leathers, bestudded beautifully with precious metals and stones.
The appearance of his whole retinue gave evidence that he was some personage of wealth and influence.
After he had examined the slaves, he retired with the two merchants; and shortly afterwards the Krooman learnt from one of the followers that the white slaves had become the property of the wealthy Moor.
The bright anticipations of liberty that had filled their souls for the last few days, vanished at this intelligence. Each felt a shock of pain,—of hopeless despair,—that for some moments stunned them almost to speechlessness.
Harry Blount was the first to awaken to the necessity of action.
"Where are our masters the merchants?" he exclaimed. "They cannot—they shall not sell us. Come, all of you follow me!"
Reaching forth from the pens that had been allowed them for a residence, the young Englishman, followed by his companions, started towards the dwelling of the sheik, to which the merchants and the Moor had retired.
All were now excited with disappointment and despair; and on reaching the sheik's house, the two Arab merchants were called out to witness a scene of anger and grief.
"Why have you sold us?" asked the Krooman when the merchant came forth. "Have you not promised that we should be taken to Swearah, and has not one gone there to obtain the money for our ransom?"
The merchants were on good terms with themselves and all the world besides. They had made what they believed to be a good bargain; and were in a humor for being agreeable.
Moreover they did not wish to be thought guilty of a wrong, even by Christian slaves, and they therefore condescended to give some explanation.
"Suppose," said one of them, "that our master Bo Muzem should find a man in Swearah who is willing to ransom you, how much are we to get for you?"
"One hundred dollars for me," answered the Krooman, "and one hundred and fifty for each of the others."
"True; and for that we should have to take you to Swearah, and be at the expense of feeding you along the road?"
"Well, Rais Mourad, a wealthy Moor, has paid us one hundred and fifty dollars for each of you; and would we not be fools to take you all the way to Swearah for less money? Besides we might never get paid at Swearah,—whereas we have received it in cash from Rais Mourad. You are no longer our slaves, but his."
When the Krooman had made this communication to the others, they saw that all further parley with the Arab merchants was useless; and that their fate was now in the hands of Rais Mourad.
At Harry's request, the Krooman endeavored to ascertain in what direction the Moor was going to take them; but the only information they received was that Rais Mourad knew his own business, and was not in the habit of conferring with his slaves as to what he should do with them.
Some of the followers of the Moor now came forward; and the slaves were ordered back to their pen, where they found some food awaiting them. They were commanded to eat it immediately, as they were soon to set forth upon a long journey.
Not one of them, after their cruel disappointment, had any appetite for eating; and Sailor Bill doggedly declared that he would never taste food again.
"Don't despair, Bill," said Harry; "there is yet hope for us."
"Where?—where is it?" exclaimed Colin; "I can't perceive it."
"If we are constantly changing owners," argued Harry, "we may yet fall into the hands of some one who will take us to Mogador."
"Is that your only hope?" asked Colin, in a tone of disappointment.
"Think of poor Jim," added Bill; "he's 'ad fifty masters,—been ten years in slavery, and not free yet; and no hope on it neyther."
"Shall we go quietly with our new master?" asked Colin.
"Yes," answered Harry; "I have had quite enough of resistance, and the beating that is sure to follow it. My back is raw at this moment. The next time I make any resistance, it shall be when there is a chance of gaining something by it, besides a sound thrashing."
Rais Mourad being unprovided with animals for his slaves to ride upon, and wishing to travel at a greater speed than they could walk, purchased four small horses from the sheik, and it was during the time these horses were being caught and made ready for the road, that the slaves were allowed to eat their dinner.
Although Harry, as well as the others, had determined on making no opposition to going away with Rais Mourad, they were very anxious to learn where he intended to take them.
All the inquiries made by the Krooman for the purpose of gratifying their curiosity, only produced the answer, "God knows, and will not tell you. Why should we do more than Him?"
Just as the horses were brought out, and all were nearly ready for a start, there was heard a commotion at the gate of the town; and next moment Bo Muzem, accompanied by three other Arabs, rode in through the gateway.
BO MUZEM BACK AGAIN.
As soon as the white slaves recognized Bo Muzem, they all rushed forward to meet him.
"Speak, Krooman!" exclaimed Harry. "Ask him if the money for our ransom will be paid? If so, we are free, and they dare not sell us again."
"Here,—here!" exclaimed Bill, pointing to one of the Arabs who came with Bo Muzem. "Ax this man where be brother Jim an' Master Terence?"
Harry and Colin turned towards the man from whom Bill desired this inquiry to be made, and recognized in him the grazier, to whom Terence and Jim had been sold.
The Krooman had no opportunity for putting the question; for Bo Muzem, on drawing near to the gate of the town, had allowed his passion to mount into a violent rage; and as he beheld the slaves, shouted out, "Christian dogs! you have deceived me. Let every man, woman, and child, in this town assemble, and be witnesses of the fate that this lying Christian so richly deserves. Let all witness the death of this young infidel, who has falsely declared he has an uncle in Swearah, named 'For God's sake buy us.' Let all witness the revenge Bo Muzem will take on the unbelieving dog who has deceived him."
As soon as Bo Muzem's tongue was stopped sufficiently to enable him to hear the voices of those around him, he was informed that the slaves were all sold,—the nephew of "For God's sake buy us," among the rest, and on better terms than he and his partners had expected to get at Swearah.
Had Harry Blount been rescued, Bo Muzem would have been much pleased at this news; but he now declared that his partners had no right to sell without his concurrence,—that he owned an interest in them; and that the one who had deceived him should not be sold, but should suffer the penalty incurred, by sending him on his long and fruitless journey.
Rais Mourad now came upon the ground. The Moor was not long in comprehending all the circumstances connected with the affair. He ordered his followers to gather around the white slaves and escort them outside the walls of the town.
Bo Muzem attempted to prevent this order from being executed. He was opposed by everybody, not only by the Moor, but his own partners, as well as the sheik of the town, who declared that there should be no blood spilled among those partaking of his hospitality.
The slaves were mounted on the horses that had been provided for them, and then conducted through the gateway leaving Bo Muzem half frantic with impotent rage.
There was but one man to sympathize with him in his disappointment, the grazier to whom Terence and Jim had been sold, and who had made arrangements for the purchase of the others.
Riding up to the Moor, this man declared that the slaves were his property; that he had purchased them the day before, and had given four horses and ten dollars in money for each.
He loudly protested against being robbed of his property, and declared that he would bring two hundred men, if necessary, for the purpose of taking possession of his own.
Rais Mourad, paying no attention to this threat, gave orders to his followers to move on; and, although it was now almost night, started off in the direction of Santa Cruz.
Before they had proceeded far, they perceived the Arab grazier riding at full speed in the opposite direction, and towards his own home.
"I wish that we had made some inquiries of that fellow about Jim and Terence," said Colin; "but it's too late now."
"Yes, too late," echoed Harry, "and I wish that he had obtained possession of us instead of our present master. We should then have all come together again. But what are we to think of this last turn of Fortune's wheel?"
"I am rather pleased at it," answered Colin. "A while ago we were in despair, because the Moor had bought us. That was a mistake. If he had not done so, you Harry would have been killed."
"Bill!" added the young Scotchman, turning to the old sailor, "what are you dreaming about?"
"Nothing," answered Bill, "I'm no goin to drame or think any mair."
"We ah gwine straight for Swearah," observed the Krooman as he spoke, glancing towards the northwest.
"That is true," exclaimed Harry, looking in the same direction. "Can it be that we are to be taken into the empire of Morocco? If so, there is hope for us yet."
"But Bo Muzem could find no one who would pay the money for our ransom," interposed Colin.
"He nebba go thar," said the Krooman. "He nebba had de time."
"I believe the Krooman is right," said Harry. "We have been told that Mogador is four days' journey from here, and the Arab was gone but six days."
The conversation of the slaves was interrupted by the Moors, who kept constantly urging them to greater speed.
The night came on very dark, but Rais Mourad would not allow them to move at a slower pace.
Sailor Bill, being as he declared unused to "navigate any sort o' land craft," could only keep his seat on the animal he bestrode, by allowing it to follow the others, while he clutched its mane with a firm grasp of both hands.
The journey was continued until near midnight, when the old sailor, unable any longer to endure the fatigue, managed to check the pace of his horse, and dismount.
The Moors endeavored to make him proceed, but were unsuccessful.
Bill declared that should he again be placed on the horse, he should probably fall off and break his neck.
This was communicated to Rais Mourad, who had turned back in a rage to inquire the cause of the delay. It was the Krooman who acted as interpreter.
The Moor's anger immediately subsided on learning that one of the slaves could speak Arabic.
"Do you and your companions wish for freedom?" asked the Moor, addressing himself to the Krooman.
"We pray for it every hour."
"Then tell that foolish man that freedom is not found here—that to obtain it he must move on with me."
The Krooman made the communication as desired.
"I don't want to hear any more about freedom," answered Bill; "I've 'eard enough ov it. If any on 'em is goin' to give us a chance for liberty, let 'em do it without so many promises."
The old sailor remained obstinate.
Neither entreaties nor threats could induce him to go farther; and Rais Mourad gave orders to his followers to halt upon the spot, as he intended to stay there for the remainder of the night. The halt was accordingly made, and a temporary camp established.
Although exhausted with their long, rough ride, Harry and Colin could not sleep. The hope of liberty was glowing too brightly within their bosoms.
This hope had not been inspired by anything that had been said or done by Rais Mourad; for they now placed no trust in the promises of any one.
Their hopes were simply based upon the belief that they were now going towards Mogador, that the Moor, their master, was an intelligent man—a man who might know that he would not lose his money by taking English subjects to a place where they would be sure of being ransomed.
At the first appearance of day, Rais Mourad ordered the march to be resumed, over a long ridge of sand. The sun soon after rising, on a high hill about four leagues distant were seen the white walls of the city of Santa Cruz, or, as it is called by the Arabs, Agadez. Descending the sand ridge, the cavalcade moved over a level plain covered with grain crops, and dotted here and there with small walled villages surrounded by plantations of vines and date-trees.
At one of the villages near the road the cavalcade made a halt, and was admitted within the walls. Throwing themselves down in the shade of some date-trees, the white slaves soon fell into a sound slumber.
Three hours after they were awakened to eat a small compound of hot barley-cakes and honey.
Before they had finished their repast, Rais Mourad came up to the spot, and began a conversation with the Krooman.
"What does the Moor say?" inquired Harry.
"He say dat if we be no bad, and we no cheat him, he take us to Sweareh, to de English Consul."
"Of course we will promise that, or anything else," assented Harry, "and keep the promise too, if we can. He will be sure to be well paid for us. Tell him that!"
The Krooman obeyed: and the Moor, in reply, said that he was well aware that he would be paid something by the Consul, but that he required a written promise from the slaves themselves as to the amount.
He wanted them to sign an agreement that he should be paid two hundred dollars for each one of them.
This they readily assented to, and the Moor then produced a piece of paper, a reed, and some ink.
Rais Mourad wrote the agreement himself in Arabic, on one side of the paper, and then, reading it sentence by sentence, requested the Krooman to translate it to his companions.
The translation given by the Krooman was—
"To English Consul,—
"We be four Christian slave. Rais Mourad buy us of Arab. We promise to gib him two hundred dollar for one, or eight hundred dollar for four, if he take us to you. Please pay him quick."
Harry and Colin signed the paper without any hesitation, and it was then handed with the pen to Sailor Bill.
The old sailor took the paper; and, after carefully surveying every object around him, walked up to one of the saddles lying on the ground a few paces off.
Spreading the paper on the saddle, he sat down, and very deliberately set about the task of making his autograph.
Slowly as the hand of a clock moving over the face of a dial, Bill's hand passed over the paper, while his head oscillated from side to side as each letter was formed.
After Bill had succeeded in painting a few characters which, in his opinion, expressed the name of William McNeal, Harry was requested to write a similar agreement on the other side of the paper, which they were also to sign.
Rais Mourad was determined on being certain that his slaves had put their names to such an agreement as he wished, and therefore had written it himself, so that he might not be deceived.
About two hours before sunset all were again in the saddle; and, riding out of the gateway, took a path leading up the mountain on which stands the city of Santa Cruz.
When about half-way up, a party of horsemen, between twenty and thirty in number, was seen coming after them at full speed.
Rais Mourad remembered the threat made by the grazier who claimed the slaves as his property, and every exertion was made to reach the city before his party could be overtaken.
The horses ridden by the white slaves were small animals, in poor condition, and were unable to move up the hill with much speed, although their riders had been reduced by starvation to the very lightest of weights.
Before reaching the level plain on the top of the hill, the pursuers gained on them rapidly, and had lessened the distance between the two parties by nearly half a mile. The nearest gate of the city was still more than a mile ahead, and towards it the Moors urged their horses with all the energy that could be inspired by oaths, kicks, and blows.
As they neared the gate the herds of their pursuers were seen just rising over the crest of the hill behind them. But as Rais Mourad saw that his slaves were now safe, he checked his steed, and the few yards that remained of the journey were performed at a slow pace, for the Moor did not wish to enter the gate of a strange city in a hasty or undignified manner.
No delay on passing the sentinels, and in five minutes more the weary slaves dismounted from their nearly exhausted steeds, and were commanded by Rais Mourad to thank God that they had arrived safe in the Empire of Morocco.
In less than a quarter of an hour after Bo Muzem and the grazier rode through the gateway, accompanied by a troop of fierce-looking Arab horsemen.
The wrath of the merchant seemed to have waxed greater in the interval, and he appeared as if about to make an immediate attack upon Harry Blount, the chief object of his spiteful vengeance.
In this he was prevented by Rais Mourad, who appealed to an officer of the city guard to protect him.
The officer informed the merchant that while within the walls of the city he must not molest other people, and Bo Muzem was compelled to give his word that he would not do so: that is to say, he was bound over to keep the peace.
The other Arabs, in whose company they had come, were also given to understand that they were in a Moorish city; and, as they saw that they were powerless to do harm without meeting with punishment, their fierce deportment soon gave way to a demeanor more befitting the streets of a civilized town.
Both pursued and pursuers were cautioned against any infringement of the laws of the place; and as a different quarter was assigned to each party, all chances of a conflict were, for the time, happily frustrated.
The next morning, Rais Mourad was summoned to appear before the governor of the city. He was ordered, also, to bring his slaves along with him. He had no reluctance in obeying these orders, and a soldier conducted him and his followers to the governor's house.
Bo Muzem and the grazier were there before them; and the governor soon after made his appearance in the room where both parties were waiting.
He was a fine-looking man, of venerable aspect, about sixty-five years of age, and, from his appearance, Harry and Colin had but little fear of the result of his decision in an appeal that might be made against them.
Bo Muzem was the first to speak. He stated that, in partnership with two other merchants, he had purchased the four slaves then present. He had never given his consent to the sale made by his partners to the Moor; and there was one of them whom it had been distinctly understood was not to be sold at all. That slave he now claimed as his own property. He had been commissioned by his partners to go to Swearah, and there dispose of the slaves. He had sold the other two to his friend Mahommed, who was present. He had no claim on them. Mahommed, the grazier was their present owner.
The grazier was now called upon to make his statement.
This was soon done. All he had to say was, that he had purchased three Christian slaves from his friend, Bo Muzem, and had given four horses and ten dollars in money for each of them. They had been taken away by force by the Moor, Rais Mourad, from whom he now claimed them.
Rais Mourad was next called upon to answer the accusation. The question was put, why he retained possession of another man's property.
In reply, he stated that he had purchased them of two Arab merchants, and had paid for them on the spot; giving one hundred and fifty silver dollars for each.
After the Moor had finished his statement, the governor remained silent for an interval of two or three minutes.
Presently, turning to Bo Muzem, he asked, "Did your partners offer you a share of the money they received for the slaves?"
"Yes," answered the merchant, "but I would not accept it."
"Have you, or your partners, received from the man, who claims three of the slaves, twelve horses and thirty dollars?"
After some hesitation, Bo Muzem answered in the negative.
"The slaves belong to the Moor, Rais Mourad, who has paid the money for them," said the governor, "and they shall not be taken from him here. Depart from my presence, all of you."
All retired, and, as they did so, the grazier was heard to mutter that there was no justice for Arabs in Morocco.
Rais Mourad gave orders to his followers to prepare for the road; and just as they were ready to start, he requested Bo Muzem to accompany him outside the walls of the city.
The merchant consented, on condition that his friend Mahommed the grazier should go along with them.
"My friend," said Rais Mourad, addressing Bo Muzem, "you have been deceived. Had you taken these Christians to Swearah, as you promised, you would have certainly been paid for them all that you could reasonably have asked. I live in Swearah, and was obliged to make a journey to the south upon urgent business. Fortunately, on my return, I met with your partners, and bought their slaves from them. The profit I shall make on them will more than repay me all the expenses of my journey. The man Mahommed, whom you call your friend, has bought two other Christians. He has sold them to the English Consul. Having made two hundred dollars by that transaction, he was anxious to trade you out of these others, and make a few hundred more. He was deceiving you for the purpose of obtaining them. There is but one God, Mahomet is his prophet, and you are a fool!"
Bo Muzem required no further evidence in confirmation of the truth of this statement. He could not doubt that the Moor was an intelligent man, who knew what he was about when buying the slaves. The grazier Mahommed had certainly purchased the two slaves spoken of, had acknowledged having carried them to Swearah, and was now anxious to obtain the others.
All was clear to him now; and for a moment he stood mute and motionless, under a sense of shame at his own stupidity.
This feeling was succeeded by one of wild rage against the man who had so craftily outwitted him.
Drawing his scimitar, he rushed towards the grazier, who, having been attentive to all that was said, was not wholly unprepared for the attack.
The Arabs never acquire much skill in the use of the scimitar, and an affair between them with these weapons is soon decided.
The contest between the merchant and his antagonist was not an exception to other affrays between their countrymen. It was a strife for life or death, witnessed by the slaves who felt no sympathy for either of the combatants.
A mussulman in a quarrel generally places more dependence on the justice of his cause than either on his strength or skill; and when such is not the case much of his natural prowess is lost to him.
Confident in the rectitude of his indignation, Bo Muzem, with his Mohammedan ideas of fatalism, was certain that the hour had not yet arrived for him to die; nor was he mistaken.
His impetuous onset could not be resisted by a man unfortified with the belief that he had acted justly: and Mahommed the grazier was soon sent to the ground, rolling in the dust in the agonies of death.
"There's one less on 'em anyhow," exclaimed Sailor Bill, as he saw the Arab cease to live. "I wish he had brought brother Jem and Master Terence here. I wonder what he has done wi' 'em?"
"We should learn, if possible," answered Harry, "and before we get any farther away from them. Suppose we speak to the Moor about them? He may be able to obtain them in some way."
At Harry's request, the Krooman proceeded to make the desired communication, but was prevented by Rais Mourad ordering the slaves into their places for the purpose of continuing the journey which this tragic incident had interrupted.
After cautioning Bo Muzem to beware of the followers of Mahommed, who now lay dead at their feet, the Moor, at the head of his kafila, moved off in the direction of Mogador.
THE JEW'S LEAP.
The road followed by Rais Mourad on the day after leaving Santa Cruz was through a country of very uneven surface.
Part of the time the kafila would be in a narrow valley by the seashore, and in the next hour following a zigzag path on the side of some precipitous mountain.
In such places the kafila would have to proceed in single file, while the Moors would be constantly cautioning the slaves against falling from the backs of their animals.
While stopping for an hour at noon for the horses to rest, the Krooman turned over a flat stone, and underneath it found a large scorpion.
After making a hole in the sand about six inches deep, and five or six in diameter, he put the reptile into it.
He then went in search of a few more scorpions to keep the prisoner company. Under nearly every stone he turned over, one or two of these reptiles were found, all of which were cast into the hole where he had placed the first.
When he had secured about a dozen within the prison from which they could not escape, he began teasing them with a stick.
Enraged at this treatment the reptiles commenced a mortal combat among themselves, a sight which was witnessed by the white slaves with about the same interest as that between the two Arabs in the morning. In other words, they did not care which got the worst of it.
A battle between two scorpions would commence with much active skirmishing on both sides, each seeking to fasten its claws on the other.
When one of the reptiles would succeed in getting a fair grip, its adversary would exhibit every disposition to surrender, apparently begging for its life, but all to no purpose, as no quarter would be given.
The champion would inflict the fatal sting; and the unfortunate reptile receiving it would die immediately after.
After all the scorpions had been killed except one, the Krooman himself finished the survivor with a blow of his stick.
When rebuked by Harry for what the latter regarded as an act of wanton cruelty, he answered that it was the duty of every man to kill scorpions.
In the afternoon they reached a place called the Jew's Leap. It was a narrow path along the side of a mountain, the base of which was washed by the sea.
The path was about half a mile long and not more than four or five feet broad. The right hand side was bounded by a wall of rocks, in some places perpendicular and rising to a height of several hundred feet.
On the left hand side was the sea, about four hundred feet below the level of the path.
There was no hope for any one who should fall from this path,—no hope but heaven.
Not a bush, tree, or any obstacle was seen to offer the slightest resistance to the downward course of a falling body.