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  • 1886
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”Tis to their Prophet’s tomb they look, at Mecca.’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Like Blandina,’ observed Estelle.

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

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

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

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

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

‘Do they know where we are?’ asked Arthur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victorine screamed aloud, ‘My lady! my poor lady.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So came down the first night upon the captives.

CHAPTER V–CAPTIVITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘And mamma? And my brother?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘How can you talk of such things at such a moment?’

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

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

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

‘You would only get yourself killed.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER VI–A MOORISH VILLAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Are they saying their prayers?’ whispered Ulysse, startled by the instant change in his play-fellows, and as Arthur acquiesced, ‘Then they are good.’

‘If it were the true faith,’ said Arthur, thinking of the wide difference between this little fellow and Estelle; but though not two years younger, Ulysse was far more childish than his sister, and when she was no longer present to lead him with her enthusiasm, sank at once to his own level. He opened wide his eyes at Arthur’s reply, and said, ‘I do not see their idols.’

‘They have none,’ said Arthur, who could not help thinking that Ulysse might look nearer home for idols–but chiefly concerned at the moment to keep the child quiet, lest he should bring danger on them by interruption.

They were sitting in the embowered porch of the sheyk’s court when, a few seconds after the villagers had risen up from their prayer, they saw a figure enter at the village gateway, and the sheyk rise and go forward. There were low bending in salutation, hands placed on the breast, then kisses exchanged, after which the Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri went out with the stranger, and great excitement and pleasure seemed to prevail among the villagers, especially the women. Arthur heard the word ‘Yusuf’ often repeated, and by the time darkness had fallen on the village, the sheyk ushered the guest into his court, bringing with him a donkey with some especially precious load–which was removed; after which the supper was served as before in the large low apartment, with a handsomely tiled floor, and an opening in the roof for the issue of the smoke from the fire, which became agreeable in the evening at this season. Before supper, however, the stranger’s feet and hands were washed by a black slave in Eastern fashion; and then all, as before, sat on mats or cushions round the central bowl, each being furnished with a spoon and thin flat soft piece of bread to dip into the mess of stewed kid, flakes of which might be extracted with the fingers.

The women, who had fastened a piece of linen across their faces, ran about and waited on the guests, who included three or four of the principal men of the village, as well as the stranger, who, as Arthur observed, was not of the uniform brown of the rest, but had some colour in his cheeks, light eyes, and a ruddy beard, and also was of a larger frame than these Moors, who, though graceful, lithe, and exceedingly stately and dignified, hardly reached above young Hope’s own shoulder. Conversation was going on all the time, and Arthur soon perceived that he was the subject of it. As soon as the meal was over, the new-comer addressed him, to his great joy, in French. It was the worst French imaginable–perhaps more correctly lingua Franca, with a French instead of an Arabic foundation, but it was more comprehensible than that of the Moorish sailor, and bore some relation to a civilised language; besides which there was something indescribably familiar in the tone of voice, although Arthur’s good French often missed of being comprehended.

‘Son of a great man? Ambassador, French!’ The greatness seemed impressed, but whether ambassador was understood was another thing, though it was accepted as relating to the boy.

‘Secretary to the Ambassador’ seemed to be an equal problem. The man shook his head, but he took in better the story of the wreck, though, like the sailor, he shook his head over the chance of there being any survivors, and utterly negatived the idea of joining them. The great point that Arthur tried to convey was that there would be a very considerable ransom if the child could be conveyed to Algiers, and he endeavoured to persuade the stranger, who was evidently a sort of travelling merchant, and, as he began to suspect, a renegade, to convey them thither; but he only got shakes of the head as answers, and something to the effect that they were a good deal out of the Dey’s reach in those parts, together with what he feared was an intimation that they were altogether in the power of Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri.

They were interrupted by a servant of the merchant, who came to bring him some message as well as a pipe and tobacco. The pipe was carried by a negro boy, at sight of whom Ulysse gave a cry of ecstasy, ‘Juba! Juba! Grandmother’s Juba! Why do not you speak to me?’ as the little black, no bigger than Ulysse himself, grinned with all his white teeth, quite uncomprehending.

‘Ah! my poor laddie,’ exclaimed Arthur in his native tongue, which he often used with the boy, ‘it is only another negro. You are far enough from home.’

The words had an astonishing effect on the merchant. He turned round with the exclamation, ‘Ye’ll be frae Scotland!’

‘And so are you!’ cried Arthur, holding out his hand.

‘Tak tent, tak tent,’ said the merchant hastily, yet with a certain hesitation, as though speaking a long unfamiliar tongue. ‘The loons might jalouse our being overfriendly thegither.’

Then he returned to the sheyk, to whom he seemed to be making explanations, and presenting some of his tobacco, which probably was of a superior quality in preparation to what was grown in the village. They solemnly smoked together and conversed, while Arthur watched them anxiously, relieved that he had found an interpreter, but very doubtful whether a renegade could be a friend, even though he were indeed a fellow-countryman.

It was not till several pipes had been consumed, and the village worthies had, with considerable ceremony, taken leave, that the merchant again spoke to Arthur. ‘I’ll see ye the morn; I hae tell’d the sheyk we are frae the same parts. Maybe I can serve you, if ye ken what’s for your guid, but I canna say mair the noo.’

The sheyk escorted him out of the court, for he slept in one of the two striped horse-hair tents, which had been spread within the enclosures belonging to the village, around which were tethered the mules and asses that carried his wares. Arthur meanwhile arranged his little charge for the night.

He felt that among these enemies to their faith he must do what was in his power to keep up that of the child, and not allow his prayers to be neglected; but not being able to repeat the Latin forms, and thinking them unprofitable to the boy himself, he prompted the saying of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer in English, and caused them to be repeated after him, though very sleepily and imperfectly.

All the men of the establishment seemed to take their night’s rest on a mat, wrapped in a bournouse, wherever they chanced to find themselves, provided it was under shelter; the women in some penetralia beyond a doorway, though they were not otherwise secluded, and only partially veiled their faces at sight of a stranger. Arthur had by this time made out that the sheyk, who was a very handsome man over middle-age, seemed to have two wives; one probably of his own age, and though withered up into a brown old mummy, evidently the ruler at home, wearing the most ornaments, and issuing her orders in a shrill, cracked tone. There was a much younger and handsome one, the mother apparently of two or three little girls from ten or twelve years old to five, and there was a mere girl, with beautiful melancholy gazelle-like eyes, and a baby in her arms. She wore no ornaments, but did not seem to be classed with the slaves who ran about at the commands of the elder dame.

However, his own position was a matter of much more anxious care, although he had more hope of discovering what it really was.

He had, however, to be patient. The sunrise orisons were no sooner paid than there was a continual resort to the tent of the merchant, who was found sitting there calmly smoking his long pipe, and ready to offer the like, also a cup of coffee, to all who came to traffic with him. He seemed to have a miscellaneous stock of coffee, tobacco, pipes, preparations of sugar, ornaments in gold and silver, jewellery, charms, pistols, and a host of other articles in stock, and to be ready to purchase or barter these for the wax, embroidered handkerchiefs, yarn, and other productions and manufactures of the place. Not a single purchase could be made on either side without a tremendous haggling, shouting, and gesticulating, as if the parties were on the verge of coming to blows; whereas all was in good fellowship, and a pleasing excitement and diversion where time was of no value to anybody. Arthur began to despair of ever gaining attention. He was allowed to wander about as he pleased within the village gates, and Ulysse was apparently quite happy with the little children, who were beautiful and active, although kept dirty and ragged as a protection from the evil eye.

Somehow the engrossing occupation of every one, especially of the only two creatures with whom he could converse, made Arthur more desolate than ever. He lay down under an ilex, and his heart ached with a sick longing he had not experienced since he had been with the Nithsdales, for his mother and his home–the tall narrow-gabled house that had sprung up close to the grim old peel tower, the smell of the sea, the tinkling of the burn. He fell asleep in the heat of the day, and it was to him as if he were once more sitting by the old shepherd on the braeside, hearing him tell the old tales of Johnnie Armstrong or Willie o’ the wudspurs.

Actually a Scottish voice was in his ears, as he looked up and saw the turbaned head of Yusuf the merchant bending over him, and saying–‘Wake up, my bonny laddie; we can hae our crack in peace while these folks are taking their noonday sleep. Awed, and where are ye frae, and how do you ca’ yersel’?’

‘I am from Berwickshire,’ responded the youth, and as the man started– ‘My name is Arthur Maxwell Hope of Burnside.’

‘Eh! No a son of auld Sir Davie?’

‘His youngest son.’

The man clasped his hands, and uttered a strange sound as if in the extremity of amazement, and there was a curious unconscious change of tone, as he said–‘Sir Davie’s son! Ye’ll never have heard tell of Partan Jeannie?’ he added.

‘A very old fishwife,’ said Arthur, ‘who used to come her rounds to our door? Was she of kin to you?’

‘My mither, sir. Mony’s the time I hae peepit out on the cuddie’s back between the creels at the door of the braw house of Burnside, and mony’s the bannock and cookie the gude lady gied me. My minnie’ll no be living thae noo,’ he added, not very tenderly.

‘I should fear not,’ said Arthur. ‘I had not seen or heard of her for some time before I left home, and that is now three years since. She looked very old then, and I remember my mother saying she was not fit to come her rounds.’

‘She wasna that auld,’ returned the merchant gravely; ‘but she had led sic a life as falls to the lot of nae wife in this country.’

Arthur had almost said, ‘Whose fault was that?’ but he durst not offend a possible protector, and softened his words into, ‘It is strange to find you here, and a Mohammedan too.’

‘Hoots, Maister Arthur, let that flea stick by the wa’. We maun do at Rome as Rome does, as ye’ll soon find’–and disregarding Arthur’s exclamation–‘and the bit bairn, I thocht ye said he was no Scot, when I was daundering awa’ at the French yestreen.’

‘No, he is half-Irish, half-French, eldest son of Count Burke, a good Jacobite, who got into trouble with the Prince of Orange, and is high in the French service.’

‘And what gars your father’s son to be secretaire, as ye ca’d it, to Frenchman or Irishman either?’

‘Well, it was my own fault. I was foolish enough to run away from school to join the rising for our own King’s–‘

‘Eh, sirs! And has there been a rising on the Border side against the English pock puddings? Oh, gin I had kenned it!’

Yusuf’s knowledge of English politics had been dim at the best, and he had apparently left Scotland before even Queen Anne was on the throne. When he understood Arthur’s story, he communicated his own. He had been engaged in a serious brawl with some English fishers, and in fear of the consequences had fled from Eyemouth, and after casting about as a common sailor in various merchant ships, had been captured by a Moorish vessel, and had found it expedient to purchase his freedom by conversion to Islam, after which his Scottish shrewdness and thrift had resulted in his becoming a prosperous itinerant merchant, with his headquarters at Bona. He expressed himself willing and anxious to do all he could for his young countryman; but it would be almost impossible to do so unless Arthur would accept the religion of his captors; and he explained that the two boys were the absolute property of the tribe, who had discovered and rescued them when going to the seashore to gather kelp for the glass work practised by the Moors in their little furnaces.

‘Forsake my religion? Never!’ cried Arthur indignantly.

‘Saftly, saftly,’ said Yusuf; ‘nae doot ye trow as I did that they are a’ mere pagans and savage heathens, worshipping Baal and Ashtaroth, but I fand myself quite mista’en. They hae no idols, and girn at the blinded Papists as muckle as auld Deacon Shortcoats himsel’.’

‘I know that,’ threw in Arthur.

‘Ay, and they are a hantle mair pious and devout than ever a body I hae seen in Eyemouth, or a’ the country side to boot; forbye, my minnie’s auld auntie, that sat graning by the ingle, and ay banned us when we came ben. The meneester himsel’ dinna gae about blessing and praying over ilka sma’ matter like the meenest of us here, and for a’ the din they make at hame about the honorable Sabbath, wha thinks of praying five times the day? While as for being the waur for liquor, these folks kenna the very taste of it. Put yon sheyk down on the wharf at Eyemouth, and what wad he say to the Christian folk there?’

A shock of conviction passed over Arthur, though he tried to lose it in indignant defence; but Yusuf did not venture to stay any longer with him, and bidding him think over what had been said, since slavery or Islam were the only alternatives, returned to the tents of merchandise.

First thoughts with the youth had of course been of horror at the bare idea of apostacy, and yet as he watched his Moorish hosts, he could not but own to himself that he never had dreamt that to be among them would be so like dwelling under the oak of Mamre, in the tents of Abraham. From what he remembered of Partan Jeannie’s reputation as a being only tolerated and assisted by his mother, on account of her extreme misery and destitution, he could believe that the ne’er-do-weel son, who must have forsaken her before he himself was born, might have really been raised in morality by association with the grave, faithful, and temperate followers of Mohammed, rather than the scum of the port of Eyemouth.

For himself and the boy, what did slavery mean? He hoped to understand better from Yusuf, and at any rate to persuade the man to become the medium of communication with the outside world, beyond that ‘dissociable ocean,’ over which his wistful gaze wandered. Then the ransom of the little Chevalier de Bourke would be certain, and, if there were any gratitude in the world, his own. But how long would this take, and what might befall them in the meantime?

Ulysse all this time seemed perfectly happy with the small Moors, who all romped together without distinction of rank, of master, slave or colour, for Yusuf’s little negro was freely received among them. At night, however, Ulysse’s old home self seemed to revive; he crept back to Arthur, tired and weary, fretting for mother, sister, and home; and even after he had fallen asleep, waking again to cry for Julienne. Poor Arthur, he was a rough nurse, but pity kept him patient, and he was even glad to see that the child had not forgotten his home.

Meantime, ever since the sunset prayer, there had been smoking of pipes and drinking of coffee, and earnest discussion between the sheyk and the merchant, and by and by Yusuf came and sat himself down by Arthur, smiling a little at the young man’s difficulty in disposing of those long legs upon the ground.

‘Ye’ll have to learn this and other things, sir,’ said he, as he crossed his own under him, Eastern fashion; but his demeanour was on the whole that of the fisher to the laird’s son, and he evidently thought that he had a grand proposal to make, for which Master Arthur ought to be infinitely obliged.

He explained to Arthur that Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri had never had more than two sons, and that both had been killed the year before in trying to recover their cattle from the Cabeleyzes, ‘a sort of Hieland caterans.’

The girl whom Arthur had noticed was the widow of the elder of the two, and the child was only a daughter. The sheyk had been much impressed by Arthur’s exploit in swimming or floating round the headland and saving the child, and regarded his height as something gigantic. Moreover, Yusuf had asserted that he was son to a great Bey in his own country, and in consequence Abou Ben Zegri was willing to adopt him as his son, provided he would embrace the true faith, and marry Ayesha, the widow.

‘And,’ said Yusuf, ‘these women are no that ill for wives, as I ken owre weel’–and he sighed. ‘I had as gude and douce a wee wifie at Bona as heart culd wish, and twa bonny bairnies; but when I cam’ back frae my rounds, the plague had been there before me. They were a’ gone, even Ali, that had just began to ca’ me Ab, Ab, and I hae never had heart to gang back to the town house. She was a gude wife–nae flying, nae rampauging. She wad hae died wi’ shame to be likened to thae randy wives at hame. Ye might do waur than tak’ such a fair offer, Maister Arthur.’

‘You mean it all kindly,’ said Arthur, touched; ‘but for nothing–no, for nothing, can a Christian deny his Lord, or yield up his hopes for hereafter.’

‘As for that,’ returned Yusuf, ‘the meneester and Beacon Shortcoats, and my auld auntie, and the lave of them, aye ca’ed me a vessel of destruction. That was the best name they had for puir Tam. So what odds culd it mak, if I took up with the Prophet, and I was ower lang leggit to row in a galley? Forbye, here they say that a man who prays and gies awmous, and keeps frae wine, is sicker to win to Paradise and a’ the houris. I had rather it war my puir Zorah than any strange houri of them a’; but any way, I hae been a better man sin’ I took up wi’ them than ever I was as a cursing, swearing, drunken, fechting sailor lad wha feared neither God nor devil.’

‘That was scarce the fault of the Christian faith,’ said Arthur.

‘Aweel, the first answer in the Shorter Carritch was a’ they ever garred me learn, and that is what we here say of Allah. I see no muckle to choose, and I KEN ane thing,–it is a hell on earth at ance gin ye gang not alang wi’ them. And that’s sicker, as ye’ll find to your cost, sir, gin ye be na the better guided.’

‘With hope, infinite hope beyond,’ said Arthur, trying to fortify himself. ‘No, I cannot, cannot deny my Lord–my Lord that bought me!’

‘We own Issa Ben Mariam for a Prophet,’ said Yusuf.

‘But He is my only Master, my Redeemer, and God. No, come what may, I can never renounce Him,’ said Arthur with vehemence.

‘Wed, awed,’ said Yusuf, ‘maybe ye’ll see in time what’s for your gude. I’ll tell the sheyk it would misbecome your father’s son to do sic a deed owre lichtly, and strive to gar him wait while I am in these parts to get your word, and nae doot it will be wiselike at the last.’

CHAPTER VII–MASTER AND SLAVE

‘I only heard the reckless waters roar, Those waves that would not hear me from the shore; I only marked the glorious sun and sky
Too bright, too blue for my captivity, And felt that all which Freedom’s bosom cheers, Must break my chain before it dried my tears.’ BYRON (The corsair).

At the rate at which the traffic in Yusuf’s tent proceeded, Arthur Hope was likely to have some little time for deliberation on the question presented to him whether to be a free Moslem sheyk or a Christian slave.

Not only had almost every household in El Arnieh to chaffer with the merchant for his wares and to dispose of home-made commodities, but from other adowaras and from hill-farms Moors and Cabyles came in with their produce of wax, wool or silk, to barter–if not with Yusuf, with the inhabitants of El Arnieh, who could weave and embroider, forge cutlery, and make glass from the raw material these supplied. Other Cabyles, divers from the coast, came up, with coral and sponges, the latter of which was the article in which Yusuf preferred to deal, though nothing came amiss to him that he could carry, or that could carry itself–such as a young foal; even the little black boy had been taken on speculation–and so indeed had the big Abyssinian, who, though dumb, was the most useful, ready, and alert of his five slaves. Every bargain seemed to occupy at least an hour, and perhaps Yusuf lingered the longer in order to give Arthur more time for consideration; or it might be that his native tongue, once heard, exercised an irresistible fascination over him. He never failed to have what he called a ‘crack’ with his young countryman at the hour of the siesta, or at night, perhaps persuading the sheyk that it was controversial, though it was more apt to be on circumstances of the day’s trade or the news of the Border-side. Controversy indeed there could be little with one so ignorant as kirk treatment in that century was apt to leave the outcasts of society, nor had conversion to Islam given him much instruction in its tenets; so that the conversation generally was on earthly topics, though it always ended in assurances that Master Arthur would suffer for it if he did not perceive what was for his good. To which Arthur replied to the effect that he must suffer rather than deny his faith; and Yusuf, declaring that a wilful man maun have his way, and that he would rue it too late, went off affronted, but always returned to the charge at the next opportunity.

Meantime Arthur was free to wander about unmolested and pick up the language, in which, however, Ulysse made far more rapid progress, and could be heard chattering away as fast, if not as correctly, as if it were French or English. The delicious climate and the open-air life were filling the little fellow with a strength and vigour unknown to him in a Parisian salon, and he was in the highest spirits among his brown playfellows, ceasing to pine for his mother and sister; and though he still came to Arthur for the night, or in any trouble, it was more and more difficult to get him to submit to be washed and dressed in his tight European clothes, or to say his prayers. He was always sleepy at night and volatile in the morning, and could not be got to listen to the little instructions with which Arthur tried to arm him against Mohammedanism into which the poor little fellow was likely to drift as ignorantly and unconsciously as Yusuf himself.

And what was the alternative? Arthur himself never wavered, nor indeed actually felt that he had a choice; but the prospect before him was gloomy, and Yusuf did not soften it. The sheyk would sell him, and he would either be made to work in some mountain-farm, or put on board a galley; and Yusuf had sufficient experience of the horrors of the latter to assure him emphatically that the gude leddy of Burnside would break her heart to think of her bonny laddie there.

‘It would more surely break her heart to think of her son giving up his faith,’ returned Arthur.

As to the child, the opinion of the tribe seemed to be that he was just fit to be sent to the Sultan to be bred as a Janissary. ‘He will come that gate to be as great a man as in his ain countree,’ said Yusuf; ‘wi’ horse to ride, and sword to bear, and braws to wear, like King Solomon in all his glory.’

‘While his father and mother would far rather he were lying dead with her under the waves in that cruel bay,’ returned Arthur.

‘Hout, mon, ye dinna ken what’s for his gude, nor for your ain neither,’ retorted Yusuf.

‘Good here is not good hereafter.’

‘The life of a dog and waur here,’ muttered Yusuf; ‘ye’ll mind me when it is too late.’

‘Nay, Yusuf, if you will only take word of our condition to Algiers, we shall–at least the boy–be assuredly redeemed, and you would win a high reward.’

‘I am no free to gang to Algiers,’ said Yusuf. ‘I fell out with a loon there, one of those Janissaries that gang hectoring aboot as though the world were not gude enough for them, and if I hadna made the best of my way out of the toon, my pow wad be a worricow on the wa’s of the tower.’

‘There are French at Bona, you say. Remember, I ask you to put yourself in no danger, only to bear the tidings to any European,’ entreated Arthur.

‘And how are they to find ye?’ demanded Yusuf. ‘Abou Ben Zegri will never keep you here after having evened his gude-daughter to ye. He’ll sell you to some corsair captain, and then the best that could betide ye wad be that a shot frae the Knights of Malta should make quick work wi’ ye. Or look at the dumbie there, Fareek. A Christian, he ca’s himsel’, too, though ’tis of a by ordinar’ fashion, such as Deacon Shortcoats would scarce own. I coft him dog cheap at Tunis, when his master, the Vizier, had had his tongue cut out–for but knowing o’ some deed that suld ne’er have been done–and his puir feet bastinadoed to a jelly. Gin a’ the siller in the Dey’s treasury ransomed ye, what gude would it do ye after that?’

‘I cannot help that–I cannot forsake my God. I must trust Him not to forsake me.’

And, as usual, Yusuf went off angrily muttering, ‘He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar.’

Perhaps Arthur’s resistance had begun more for the sake of honour, and instinctive clinging to hereditary faith, without the sense of heroism or enthusiasm for martyrdom which sustained Estelle, and rather with the feeling that inconstancy to his faith and his Lord would be base and disloyal. But, as the long days rolled on, if the future of toil and dreary misery developed itself before him, the sense of personal love and aid towards the Lord and Master whom he served grew upon him. Neither the gazelle-eyed Ayesha nor the prosperous village life presented any great temptation. He would have given them all for one bleak day of mist on a Border moss; it was the appalling contrast with the hold of a Moorish galley that at times startled him, together with the only too great probability that he should be utterly incapable of saving poor little Ulysse from unconscious apostacy.

Once Yusuf observed, that if he would only make outward submission to Moslem law, he might retain his own belief and trust in the Lord he seemed so much to love, and of whom he said more good than any Moslem did of the Prophet.

‘If I deny Him, He will deny me,’ said Arthur.

‘And will na He forgive ane as is hard pressed?’ asked Yusuf.

‘It is a very different thing to go against the light, as I should be doing,’ said Arthur, ‘and what it might be for that poor bairn, whom Cod preserve.’

‘And wow! sir. ‘Tis far different wi’ you that had the best of gude learning frae the gude leddy,’ muttered Yusuf. ‘My minnie aye needit me to sort the fish and gang her errands, and wad scarce hae sent me to scule, gin I wad hae gane where they girned at me for Partan Jeannie’s wean, and gied me mair o’ the tawse than of the hornbook. Gin the Lord, as ye ca’ Him, had ever seemed to me what ye say He is to you, Maister Arthur, I micht hae thocht twice o’er the matter. But there’s nae ganging back the noo. A Christian’s life they harm na, though they mak’ it a mere weariness to him; but for him that quits the Prophet, tearing the flesh wi’ iron cleeks is the best they hae for him.’

This time Yusuf retreated, not as usual in anger, but as if the bare idea he had broached was too terrible to be dwelt upon. He had by the end of a fortnight completed all his business at El Arnieh, and Arthur, having by this time picked up enough of the language to make himself comprehensible, and to know fully what was set before him, was called upon to make his decision, so that either he might be admitted by regular ritual into the Moslem faith, and adopted by the sheyk, or else be advertised by Yusuf at the next town as a strong young slave.

Sitting in the gate among the village magnates, like an elder of old, Sheyk Abou Ben Zegri, with considerable grace and dignity, set the choice before the Son of the Sea in most affectionate terms, asking of him to become the child of his old age, and to heal the breach left by the swords of the robbers of the mountains.

The old man’s fine dark eyes filled with tears, and there was a pathos in his noble manner that made Arthur greatly grieved to disappoint him, and sorry not to have sufficient knowledge of the language to qualify more graciously the resolute reply he had so often rehearsed to himself, expressing his hearty thanks, but declaring that nothing could induce him to forsake the religion of his fathers.

‘Wilt thou remain a dog of an unbeliever, and receive the treatment of dogs?’

‘I must,’ said Arthur.

‘The youth is a goodly youth,’ said the sheyk; ‘it is ill that his heart is blind. Once again, young man, Issa Ben Mariam and slavery, or Mohammed and freedom?’

‘I cannot deny my Lord Christ.’

There was a pause. Arthur stood upright, with lips compressed, hands clasped together, while the sheyk and his companions seemed struck by his courage and high spirit. Then one of them–a small, ugly fellow, who had some pretensions to be considered the sheyk’s next heir–cried, ‘Out on the infidel dog!’ and set the example of throwing a handful of dust at him. The crowd who watched around were not slow to follow the example, and Arthur thought he was actually being stoned; but the missiles were for the most part not harmful, only disgusting, blinding, and confusing. There was a tremendous hubbub of vituperation, and he was at last actually stunned by a blow, waking to find himself alone, and with hands and feet bound, in a dirty little shed appropriated to camels. Should he ever be allowed to see poor little Ulysse again, or to speak to Yusuf, in whom lay their only faint hope of redemption? He was helpless, and the boy was at the mercy of the Moors. Was he utterly forsaken?

It was growing late in the day, and he had had no food for many hours. Was he to be neglected and starved? At last he heard steps approaching, and the door was opened by the man who had led the assault on him, who addressed him as ‘Son of an old ass–dog of a slave,’ bade him stand up and show his height, at the same time cutting the cords that bound him. It was an additional pang that it was to Yusuf that he was thus to exhibit himself, no doubt in order that the merchant should carry a description of him to some likely purchaser. He could not comprehend the words that passed, but it was very bitter to be handled like a horse at a fair–doubly so that he, a Hope of Burnside, should thus be treated by Partan Jeannie’s son.

There ensued outside the shrieking and roaring which always accompanied a bargain, and which lasted two full hours. Finally Yusuf looked into the hut, and roughly said in Arabic, ‘Come over to me, dog; thou art mine. Kiss the shoe of thy master’–adding in his native tongue, ‘For ance, sir. It maun be done before these loons.’

Certainly the ceremony would have been felt as less humiliating towards almost anybody else, but Arthur endured it; and then was led away to the tents beyond the gate.

‘There, sir,’ said Yusuf, ‘it ill sorts your father’s son to be in sic a case, but it canna be helpit. I culd na leave behind the bonny Scots tongue, let alane the gude Leddy Hope’s son.’

‘You have been very good to me, Yusuf,’ said Arthur, his pride much softened by the merchant’s evident sense of the situation. ‘I know you mean me well, but the boy–‘

‘Hoots! the bairn is happy eno’. He will come to higher preferment than even you or I. Why, mon, an Aga of the Janissaries is as good as the Deuk himsel’.’

‘Yusuf, I am very grateful–I believe you must have paid heavily to spare me from ill usage.’

‘Ye may say that, sir. Forty piastres of Tunis, and eight mules, and twa pair of silver-mounted pistols. The extortionate rogue wad hae had the little dagger, but I stood out against that.’

‘I see, I am deeply beholden,’ said Arthur; ‘but it would be tenfold better if you would take him instead of me!’

‘What for suld I do that? He is nae countryman of mine–one side French and the other Irish. He is naught to me.’

‘He is heir to a noble house,’ waged Arthur. ‘They will reward you amply for saving him.’

‘Mair like to girn at me for a Moor. Na, na! Hae na I dune enough for ye, Maister Arthur–giving half my beasties, and more than half my silver? Canna ye be content without that whining bairn?’

‘I should be a forsworn man to be content to leave the child, whose dead mother prayed me to protect him, and those who will turn him from her faith. See, now, I am a man, and can guard myself, by the grace of God; but to leave the poor child here would be letting these men work their will on him ere any ransom could come. His mother would deem it giving him up to perdition. Let me remain here, and take the helpless child. You know how to bargain. His price might be my ransom.’

‘Ay, when the jackals and hyenas have picked your banes, or you have died under the lash, chained to the oar, as I hae seen, Maister Arthur.’

‘Better so than betray the dead woman’s trust. How no–‘

For there was a pattering of feet, a cry of ‘Arthur, Arthur!’ and sobbing, screaming, and crying, Ulysse threw himself on his friend’s breast. He was pursued by one or two of the hangers-on of the sheyk’s household, and the first comer seized him by the arm; but he clung to Arthur, screamed and kicked, and the old nurse who had come hobbling after coaxed in vain. He cried out in a mixture of Arabic and French that he WOULD sleep with Arthur–Arthur must put him to bed; no one should take him away.

‘Let him stay,’ responded Yusuf; ‘his time will come soon enough.’

Indulgence to children was the rule, and there was an easy good-nature about the race, which made them ready to defer the storm, and acquiesce in the poor little fellow remaining for another evening with that last remnant of his home to whom he always reverted at nightfall.

He held trembling by Arthur till all were gone, then looked about in terror, and required to be assured that no one was coming to take him away.

‘They shall not,’ he cried. ‘Arthur, you will not leave me alone? They are all gone–Mamma, and Estelle, and la bonne, and Laurent, and my uncle, and all, and you will not go.’

‘Not now, not to-night, my dear little mannie,’ said Arthur, tears in his eyes for the first time throughout these misfortunes.

‘Not now! No, never!’ said the boy hugging him almost to choking. ‘That naughty Ben Kader said they had sold you for a slave, and you were going away; but I knew I should find you–you are not a slave!– you are not black–‘

‘Ah! Ulysse, it is too true; I am–‘

‘No! no! no!’ the child stamped, and hung on him in a passion of tears. ‘You shall not be a slave. My papa shall come with his soldiers and set you free.’

Altogether the boy’s vehemence, agitation, and terror were such that Arthur found it impossible to do anything but soothe and hush him, as best might be, till his sobs subsided gradually, still heaving his little chest even after he fell asleep in the arms of his unaccustomed nurse, who found himself thus baffled in using this last and only opportunity of trying to strengthen the child’s faith, and was also hindered from pursuing Yusuf, who had left the tent. And if it were separation that caused all this distress, what likelihood that Yusuf would encumber himself with a child who had shown such powers of wailing and screaming?

He durst not stir nor speak for fear of wakening the boy, even when Yusuf returned and stretched himself on his mat, drawing a thick woollen cloth over him, for the nights were chill. Long did Arthur lie awake under the strange sense of slavery and helplessness, and utter uncertainty as to his fate, expecting, in fact, that Yusuf meant to keep him as a sort of tame animal to talk Scotch; but hoping to work on him in time to favour an escape, and at any rate to despatch a letter to Algiers, as a forlorn hope for the ultimate redemption of the poor little unconscious child who lay warm and heavy across his breast. Certainly, Arthur had never so prayed for aid, light. and deliverance as now!

CHAPTER VIII–THE SEARCH

‘The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks, The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs. The deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.’ TENNYSON.

Arthur fell asleep at last, and did not waken till after sunrise, nor did Ulysse, who must have been exhausted with crying and struggling. When they did awaken, Arthur thinking with heavy heart that the moment of parting was come, he saw indeed the other three slaves busied in making bales of the merchandise; but the master, as well as the Abyssinian, Fareek, and the little negro were all missing. Bekir, who was a kind of foreman, and looked on the new white slave with some jealousy, roughly pointed to some coarse food, and in reply to the question whether the merchant was taking leave of the sheyk, intimated that it was no business of theirs, and assumed authority to make his new fellow-slave assist in the hardest of the packing.

Arthur had no heart to resist, much as it galled him to be ordered about by this rude fellow. It was only a taste, as he well knew, of what he had embraced, and he was touched by poor little Ulysse’s persistency in keeping as close as possible, though his playfellows came down and tried first to lure, then to drag him away, and finally remained to watch the process of packing up. Though Bekir was too disdainful to reply to his fellow-slave’s questions, Arthur picked up from answers to the Moors who came down that Yusuf had recollected that he had not finished his transactions with a little village of Cabyle coral and sponge-fishers on the coast, and had gone down thither, taking the little negro, to whom the headman seemed to have taken a fancy, so as to become a possible purchaser, and with the Abyssinian to attend to the mules.

A little before sundown Yusuf returned. Fareek lifted down a pannier covered by a crimson and yellow kerchief, and Yusuf declared, with much apparent annoyance, that the child was sick, and that this had frustrated the sale. He was asleep, must be carried into the tent, and not disturbed: for though the Cabyles had not purchased him, there was no affording to loose anything of so much value. Moreover, observing Ulysse still hovering round the Scot, he said, ‘You may bide here the night, laddie, I ha tell’t the sheyk;’ and he repeated the same to the slaves in Arabic, dismissing them to hold a parting feast on a lamb stuffed with pistachio nuts, together with their village friends.

Then drawing near to Arthur, he said, ‘Can ye gar yon wean keep a quiet sough, if we make him pass for the little black?’

Arthur started with joy, and stammered some words of intense relief and gratitude.

‘The deed’s no dune yet,’ said Yusuf, ‘and it is ower like to end in our leaving a’ our banes on the sands! But a wilfu’ man maun have his way,’ he repeated; ‘so, sir, if it be your wull, ye’d better speak to the bairn, for we must make a blackamoor of him while there is licht to do it, or Bekir, whom I dinna lippen to, comes back frae the feast.’

Ulysse, being used to Irish-English, had little understanding of Yusuf’s broad Scotch; but he was looking anxiously from one to the other of the speakers, and when Arthur explained to him that the disguise, together with perfect silence, was the only hope of not being left behind among the Moors, and the best chance of getting back to his home and dear ones again, he perfectly understood. As to the blackening, for which Yusuf had prepared a mixture to be laid on with a feather, it was perfectly enchanting to faire la comedie. He laughed so much that he had to be peremptorily hushed, and they were sensible of the danger that in case of a search he might betray himself to his Moorish friends; and Arthur tried to make him comprehend the extreme danger, making him cry so that his cheeks had to be touched up. His eyes and hair were dark, and the latter was cut to its shortest by Yusuf, who further managed to fasten some tufts of wool dipped in the black unguent to the kerchief that bound his head. The childish features had something of the Irish cast, which lent itself to the transformation, and in the scanty garments of the little negro Arthur owned that he should never have known the small French gentleman. Arthur was full of joy–Yusuf gruff, brief, anxious, like one acting under some compulsion most unwillingly, and even despondently, but apparently constrained by a certain instinctive feudal feeling, which made him follow the desires of the young Border laird’s son.

All had been packed beforehand, and there was nothing to be done but to strike the tents, saddle the mules, and start. Ulysse, still very sleepy, was lifted into the pannier, almost at the first streak of dawn, while the slaves were grumbling at being so early called up; and to a Moor who wakened up and offered to take charge of the little Bey, Yusuf replied that the child had been left in the sheyk’s house.

So they were safely out at the outer gate, and proceeding along a beautiful path leading above the cliffs. The mules kept in one long string, Bekir with the foremost, which was thus at some distance from the hindmost, which carried Ulysse and was attended by Arthur, while the master rode his own animals and gave directions. The fiction of illness was kept up, and when the bright eyes looked up in too lively a manner, Yusuf produced some of the sweets, which were always part of his stock in trade, as a bribe to quietness.

At sunrise, the halt for prayer was a trial to Arthur’s intense anxiety, and far more so was the noontide one for sleep. He even ventured a remonstrance, but was answered, ‘Mair haste, worse speed. Our lives are no worth a boddle till the search is over.’

They were on the shady side of a great rock overhung by a beautiful creeping plant, and with a spring near at hand, and Yusuf, in leisurely fashion, squatted down, caused Arthur to lift out the child, who was fast asleep again, and the mules to be allowed to feed, and distributed some dried goat’s flesh and dates; but Ulysse, somewhat to Arthur’s alarm, did not wake sufficiently to partake.

Looking up in alarm, he met a sign from Yusuf and presently a whisper, ‘No hurt done–’tis safer thus–‘

And by this time there were alarming sounds on the air. The sheyk and two of the chief men of El Arnieh were on horseback and armed with matchlocks; and the whole ‘posse of the village were following on foot, with yells and vituperations of the entire ancestry of the merchant, and far more complicated and furious threats than Arthur could follow; but he saw Yusuf go forward to meet them with the utmost cool courtesy.

They seemed somewhat discomposed: Yusuf appeared to condole with them on the loss, and, waving his hands, put all his baggage at their service for a search, letting them run spears through the bales, and overturn the baskets of sponges, and search behind every rock. When they approached the sleeping boy, Arthur, with throbbing heart, dimly comprehended that Yusuf was repeating the story of the disappointment of a purchase caused by his illness, and lifting for a moment the covering laid over him to show the bare black legs and arms. There might also have been some hint of infection which, in spite of all Moslem belief in fate, deterred Abou Ben Zegri from an over-close inspection. Yusuf further invented a story of having put the little Frank in charge of a Moorish woman in the adowara; but added he was so much attached to the Son of the Sea, that most likely he had wandered out in search of him, and the only wise course would be to seek him before he was devoured by any of the wild beasts near home.

Nevertheless, there was a courteous and leisurely smoking of pipes and drinking of coffee before the sheyk and his followers turned homewards. To Arthur’s alarm and surprise, however, Yusuf did not resume the journey, but told Bekir that there would hardly be a better halting- place within their powers, as the sun was already some way on his downward course; and besides, it would take some time to repack the goods which had been cast about in every direction during the search. The days were at their shortest, though that was not very short, closing in at about five o’clock, so that there was not much time to spare. Arthur began to feel some alarm at the continued drowsiness of the little boy, who only once muttered something, turned round, and slept again.

‘What have you done to him?’ asked Arthur anxiously.

‘The poppy,’ responded Yusuf. ‘Never fash yoursel’. The bairn willna be a hair the waur, and ’tis better so than that he shuld rax a’ our craigs.’

Yusuf’s peril was so much the greater, that it was impossible to object to any of his precautions, especially as he might take offence and throw the whole matter over; but it was impossible not to chafe secretly at the delay, which seemed incomprehensible. Indeed, the merchant was avoiding private communication with Arthur, only assuming the master, and ordering about in a peremptory fashion which it was very hard to digest.

After the sunset orisons had been performed, Yusuf regaled his slaves with a donation of coffee and tobacco, but with a warning to Arthur not to partake, and to keep to windward of them. So too did the Abyssinian, and the cause of the warning was soon evident, as Bekir and his companion nodded, and then sank into a slumber as sound as that of the little Frenchman. Indeed, Arthur himself was weary enough to fall asleep soon after sundown, in spite of his anxiety, and the stars were shining like great lamps when Yusuf awoke him. One mule stood equipped beside him, and held by the Abyssinian. Yusuf pointed to the child, and said, ‘Lift him upon it.’

Arthur obeyed, finding a pannier empty on one side to receive the child, who only muttered and writhed instead of awaking. The other side seemed laden. Yusuf led the animal, retracing their way, while