*Portions of this header are copyright (C) 2001 by Michael Hart*
This etext was produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
MOHAMMED ALI AND HIS HOUSE
An Historical Romance
by L. MUHLBACH
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY CHAPMAN COLEMAN
BOOK I YEARS OF YOUTH.
I. The Sea
II. Mother and Son
III. Boyish Dreams
IV. Premonition of Death
V. The Story-teller
VI. The Mamelukes
VII. Dreams of the Future
VIII. The Friends
IX. A Soul in the Agonies of Death X. Cousrouf Pacha
XI. The Revolt
BOOK II PARADISE AND HELL.
I. The Flower of Praousta
III. The First Day of Creation
IV. Masa’s Jewelry
V. The Deliverance
VI. The Flight
VII. The Messenger
IX. Where is she?
X. The Departure
XI. The Triple Oath
XII. The Paradise under the Earth
BOOK III THE MAMELUKES.
II. All Things pass away
III. The Bim Bashi
IV. The Embarkation
V. The Camp at Aboukir
VI. The Massacre
VIII. The Viceroy of Egypt
IX. Sitta Nefysseh
X. L’Elfi Bey
XI. The Council of War
XII. The Abduction
BOOK IV THE VICEROY.
II. In the Desert
III. The Agreement
IV. The Revolt
V. A Strong Heart
VII. Money! Pay!
VIII. The Insurrection
IX. Vengeance at Last
X. The Return to Cairo
XI. Mohammed Ali and Bardissi
XII. Against the Mamelukes
XIII. Love unto Death
XIV. Courschid Pacha
XV. The Tent
YEARS OF YOUTH
Beautiful is the sea when it lies at rest in its sublimity, its murmuring waves gently rippling upon the beach, the sky above reflected with a soft light upon its dark bosom.
Beautiful is the sea when it bears upon its surface the stately ships, as though they were rose-leaves caressingly tossed by one wave to another. Beautiful is the sea when the light barks with their red sails are borne slowly onward by the gentle breeze, the careless fishermen casting nets from the decks of their frail craft into the deep, to draw thence, for the nourishment or pleasure of man, its silent inhabitants. Beautiful it is when in the darkness of the night, relieved only by the light of the stars, and the moon just rising above the horizon, the pirates venture forth in their boats from their lairs on the coast, and glide stealthily along within the shadow of the overhanging cliffs, awaiting an opportunity to rob the fishermen of their harvest; or, united in larger numbers, to suddenly surround the stately merchantman, clamber like cats up its sides, murder the sleeping, unsuspecting crew, and put themselves in possession of the vessel.
The sea has witnessed all this for centuries, has silently buried such secrets in its depths; and yet, after such nights of blood and terror, the sun has again risen in splendor over its bosom, ever presenting the same sublime spectacle.
Beautiful is the sea when it lies at rest in the azure light of the skies-a very heaven on earth. But still more beautiful, more glorious, is it when it surges in its mighty wrath-a wrath compared with which the thunder of the heavens is but as the whispering of love, the raging of a storm upon the land, a mere murmur. An immeasurable monster, the sea rushes with its mighty waves upon the rock-bound coast, sends clouds of spray high into the air, telling in tones of thunder of the majesty and strength of the ocean that refuses to be fettered or conciliated.
You may cultivate the arts and sciences on the land, you may bring the earth into subjection, and make it yield up its treasures; the sea has bounded in freedom since the beginning, and it will not be conquered, will not be tamed. The mind of man has learned to command all things on the land, knows the secrets of the depths of the earth, and uses them; but man is weak and powerless when he dares to command, or ventures to combat, the ocean. At its pleasure it carries ships, barks, and boats; but at its pleasure it also destroys and grinds them to dust, and you can only fold your hands and let it act its will.
Today it is surging fiercely; its waves are black, and their white heads curl over upon the rock Bucephalus, that stretches far out into the bay of Contessa, pictured against the blue sky in the form of a gigantic black steed. Huddled together, at the foot of this rock, and leaning against its surface, is a group of men and boys. They are eagerly gazing out upon the water, and are perhaps speaking to each other; but no one hears what another says, for the waves are roaring, and the storm howling in the rocky caves, and the waves and storm, with their mighty chorus, drown the little human voices. The pale faces of the boys are expressive of terror and anxiety, the knit brows of the men indicate that they are expecting a disaster, and the trembling lips of the old men forebode that the next hour may bring with it some horrible event.
They stand upon the beach, waiting anxiously; but the monster–the sea–regards them not, and hurls one black wave after the other in upon the cliff behind which they stand, often drenching them with spray.
But these people pay no attention to this, hardly notice it; their whole soul is in their eyes, which are gazing fixedly out upon the waters. Thus they stand, these poor, weak human beings, in the presence of the grand, majestic ocean, conscious their impotence, and waiting till the monster shall graciously allow his anger to abate. For a moment the storm holds its breath; a strange, solemn stillness follows upon the roaring of the elements, and affords these people an opportunity to converse, and impart their terror and anxiety to each other.
“He will not return,” said one of them, with a shake of the head and a sad look.
“He is lost!” sighed another.
“And you boys are to blame for it!” cries a third, turning to the group who stood near the men, closely wrapped in their brown cloaks, the hoods pulled down over their eyes.
“Why did you encourage him to undertake so daring a feat?” cried a fourth, pointing threateningly toward the boys.
“It is not our fault, Sheik Emir,” said one of them, defiantly; “he would do so.”
“Mohammed always was proud and haughty,” exclaimed another. “We told him that a storm was coming, and that we would go home. But he wouldn’t, sheik.”
“That is to say,” said the sheik, angrily–“that is to say, you have been ridiculing the poor boy again?”
“He is always so proud, and thinks himself something better than the rest of us,” murmured the boy, “though he is something worse, and may some day be a beggar if–“
The storm now began to rage more furiously; the waves towered higher, and threw their spray far on to the shore and high upon the rock, as though determined to make known its dread majesty to the inhabitants of the city of Cavalla, which stands with its little houses, narrow streets, and splendid mosque, on the plateau of the rock of Bucephalus. On the summit of the rock a woman is kneeling, her hands extended imploringly toward heaven; she has allowed the white veil to fall from her face, and her agonized features are exposed to view, regardless of the law that permits her to reveal her countenance in the harem only. What are the laws to her? where is the man to command her to veil her countenance? who says to her: “You belong to me, and my heart glows with jealousy when others behold you”?
No one is there who could thus address her; for she is a widow, and calls nothing on earth her own, and loves nothing on earth but her son, her Mohammed Ali.
She knows that he has gone out to sea in a frail skiff to cross over to the island-rock Imbro. The boys have told her of the daring feat which her son had undertaken with them. Filled with anxiety, they had come up to the widow of Ibrahim to announce that her son had refused to return with them after they had started in their fisher- boats for the island of Imbro. “I have begun it and I’ll carry it out,” the proud boy had replied to them. “You have ridiculed me, and think yourselves better oarsmen than I, and now you shall see that I alone shall cross over to Imbro, while you cowardly return when the storm begins to rage.”
This was his reply, and in their anxiety they had repeated it to his mother Khadra, telling her, at the same time, that they were innocent of her son’s misdeed, and had begged him in his mother’s name to return with them. There she kneels on the brow of the rock, gazing out upon the water, imploring Allah to restore her son, and conjuring the raging sea to bear back her child to the shore.
The mother’s entreaties are ardent, and strong is her prayer to Allah and to Nature.
The ghins, the evil spirits themselves, hold their breath and flap their black wings more gently when they rustle past the spot where a mother weeps and prays for her son!
But a tear drops from the eyes of the good spirits when they meet such a mother, and this tear is potent to save her child. Perhaps at this moment an agathodaemon has flown by, has seen the agonized mother, and has let fall a tear upon the waters, for at this moment they become more tranquil. Perhaps the ghins have suddenly been swept away by the whirlwind, Zeboah, for the storm is now hushed.
The storm is stilled, though from time to time its mighty breath is again heard; and then it is again mute, and the waves roll in upon the shore less furiously. The sky, too, begins to grow clear. The sun looks out from between the clouds, and throws a long golden streak of light across the waves, as if to conciliate with its smile the foaming sea, and smooth its furrowed brow.
Now, a single, mighty cry resounds from above, from the place where the mother is kneeling. It seems to find its echo here below on the shore where the men and boys are standing. It is a cry of joy, of ecstasy. And all hands are raised and pointed across the water to the spot where the island-rock, Imbro, must lie. It is not visible; the waves have surged over it, as they always do when the storm rages, but they know that it must lie there. And there–a black spot! It dances on the waves, and is lifted above the white spray. The sun throws its rays far out over the waters, and over the black spot. Again a shout and a cry resound on the shore and above on the plateau.
Yes, it is the boat, dancing like a leaf up through the foam. The mother and the men are waiting on the shore in breathless suspense, as it approaches nearer and nearer. Yes, it is the boat in which Mohammed Ali went out to sea.
Yes, it is he; he is returning!
The men and boys are now rejoicing, and the poor woman has fainted away. While the mother’s heart was in doubt, it throbbed violently in her breast; now that she knows her child is returning, it stands still with joy and delight.
The women, who had vainly endeavored to console her, have now come to recall the mother to consciousness, and to cheer her with joyous words.
“Your son returns! Allah has protected him! The ghins had no power over him, his agathodaemon watched over him! Allah be praised, Allah is great!”
The boat comes on dancing over the water. The boy stands alone, no one to assist him in wielding his oar. He holds it firmly grasped in his hands, using it lustily, and steering in defiance of the waves toward the shore. And now the men hasten forward to his assistance. They throw long ropes to him, and hail their success with a shout of joy, when one of them happily falls into the boy’s boat. The latter grasps the end thrown to him, and holds it firmly. The men draw the rope and thus force the boat to the shore, and, as it touches the rock, ten arms grasp it and hold it securely. With a single bound the boy leaps ashore.
His face is perfectly calm; his eyes, lustrous as stars, show no traces of terror; they are fixed on the men with a kindly glance, but they darken as he turns to the boys.
“You see, my boys,” said he, with a calm and at the same time threatening expression, “I have won my wager! Here is the proof that I was over there. The knife that Ibrahim lost there yesterday, I bring back to him. Here it is!”
He takes the knife out of his jacket, thoroughly drenched with water, and throws it down before the boys. “I have won my wager! You men are witnesses of my triumph! Each boy is bound to pay me tribute from to-day. Each one must furnish me, twice a week, with the best peaches and dates from his garden, and when we go out to the chase they must obey me, and acknowledge me to be their captain.”
What triumph shone in his eyes, what an expression of energy in the bearing of a boy scarcely ten years old!
“That was it!” exclaimed Toussoun Aga, in a reproachful tone. “For this reason my brother’s son risked his life, and caused his mother and all of us so much anxiety.–Allah forgive you! You are a wild, defiant boy.”
“No, uncle,” cried the boy; “no, I am not wild and defiant. They ridiculed me, and said I was not as good as they, could do nothing, didn’t even know how to steer a boat. And then we laid a wager, and I won my wager; and they shall pay the tribute, and acknowledge me to be their captain. I call all you men to witness that I am the captain of the boys of Cavalla.”
The men looked at each other, amused and astonished at the same time. He speaks like a child, and yet haughtily, like a monarch. His words are childish, and yet so full of energy. And many of them thought they could read in the book of the future that a great destiny awaited the poor boy Mohammed Ali. “He is poor, to be sure, and will have much hard fighting to do with the storms of life. May the same success he has met with against the storms of the sea to- day also attend him hereafter against the storms of life!”
Toussoun Aga stretches out his hand to take that of his nephew Mohammed, to lead him to the rock above, to his mother, but the boy quickly rejects the proffered assistance.
“I can ascend the rock to my mother alone; I am not weak and terrified, uncle. Go on, I will follow.”
And, as he says this, he crosses his hands behind his back. The rest now cry out:
“Look at his hands! Look, they are bleeding!”
Toussoun now takes the boy’s hands in his own, against his will, and opens them. They are covered with blood, that oozes out of the raw flesh.
“It is nothing,” said the boy; “nothing at all. I had to hold fast to the oar, the skin stuck to it, and that made my hands bleed.”
The men gaze on him admiringly, and whisper to each other: “He is a hero, if he is only ten years old.” And they respectfully step back, and allow the boy to pass on up the rocky path that leads to Cavalla.
MOTHER AND S0N.
“Here he is again, Sitta Khadra. I bring your son,” said Toussoun Aga, as he entered, with the boy, the hut into which some kind- hearted women had brought Mohammed’s mother. “Scold the naughty youth well, and tell him what anxiety he has caused us all.”
Sitta Khadra, however, did not scold him, but only extended her open arms, drew her son to her bosom with a joyous cry, and kissed him tenderly. Toussoun gazed smilingly at the two, and then noiselessly left the hut.
“It is best to leave them alone, that Allah only may hear what the mother says to her son,” he murmured, as he returned to his own hut, where he industriously began to apply himself to making fishing- nets, with which occupation he earned his livelihood.
Now that Mohammed was left alone with his mother, the boy who was always so reserved and timid in the presence of others, knelt down before her, and entreated her tenderly not to be angry with him for having made her anxious.
“But you see, mother, it had to be done,” said he, excitedly and imploringly at the same time, “else they would have ridiculed me again as they so often do.”
“How can they ridicule you, my beloved son? ” murmured Khadra, regarding him tenderly; “are you not handsomer and stronger than all of these pale, weak boys? Can you not steer a boat and use a gun better than they? Are you not a man among these boys?”
“Not yet, Mother Khadra; but I shall become one,” said he, rising from his knees and lifting his head proudly. “Yes, I will become a man among these boys, and they shall all be my subjects. We had laid a wager, and that wager had to be won; and won for you, Mother Khadra,” he added with a glad smile.
“For me?” she asked, wonderingly. “How can your victory over these boys be of use to me, except that I rejoice in your greater strength?”
“There is something else, mother,” he replied, joyously. “They must pay a tribute, and the finest dates and peaches, and the most beautiful flowers in their gardens, are mine, two days in the week, and for three months–this was the wager. Now you have fruits and flowers. Do you remember how you complained, while we were sitting on the rock looking at the sea, that we had only this poor little hut, and no garden and no field? I said to myself, ‘I’ll get them for her.’ And, mother, you shall have all the rest besides. Now you have fruits and flowers, but, if Allah is gracious, you shall soon have your own garden and your own house, handsomer than all the houses of Cavalla. I will build my mother a palace; she shall have slaves and servants; all shall bow down before her as before their mistress; none shall rule over her but Allah and the prophet.”
The mother gazed in wonder at her son’s excited countenance; he seemed to her at this moment not a child, but a man, a hero.
“Yes,” she murmured to herself,” he will make what he says come true: all that the dream announced and the prophetess foretold.”
“What is that you are saying, mother?” asked he. “What was that dream, what did the prophetess foretell?”
She gently shook her head. “It will not be well to tell you, my son. Your heart is bold and passionate. And yet,” she continued, after a moment, “it may be well that you should know it; for to the daring belongs the world, and Allah blesses those who have a passionate and earnest heart. Sit down at my side, my son, and you shall know all.”
“Speak, mother, speak–I am listening. How was the dream?”
“It was more than twelve years ago,” said the mother, thoughtfully. “At that time I was a young married woman, and was beautiful–so the people said–for I was so poor that I could not even buy myself a veil, and Allah and the prophets forgave me for going uncovered before men. Then it was that your father, the Boulouk Baschi of the police, saw me; his eye rested lovingly on the poor girl, and he did me the honor to make me his wife, and he covered my face with a veil, that no other man might henceforth see me. It was a great honor for me that Boulouk Baschi considered me worthy to be his wife, even his only wife. For he made no use of the privilege accorded by the prophet and our religion, which allows a man to conduct several women to his harem. He said the one woman of his heart should be the one woman of his house. It was a happy year, my son this first year of our married life. We were not rich, we had nothing but the salary which your father received from the tschorbadji, but it was sufficient; when we are happy we do not need much. You must know, my son, that my heart is not fixed on splendor and show; it was not my own thoughts that conjured up these proud dreams. We lived, as I have said, in quiet bliss, hoping that our happiness might soon be increased by the birth of a child, by you, my son. One circumstance only dimmed our happiness: this was your father’s service. A bad service, my son! Bands of robbers infested our peninsula, and it was a dangerous calling to lie in wait for them, and follow them up into the mountains. I always trembled when your father went out with his men in pursuit of robbers, and I had good cause to tremble. Allah had implanted in my soul a foreboding of coming evil. One day, while engaged in preparing our simple repast, I heard heavy footsteps, and a subdued murmur of voices approaching. I knew that some misfortune was impending, and there was. Your father was brought in a bleeding corpse! He had followed the robbers far up into the mountains alone, his men refusing to accompany him. The robbers had surrounded and slain him, disfiguring his dear face so that I could scarcely recognize it.”
“What was done with the murderers?” asked Mohammed, fiercely. “Were they punished, executed?”
She shook her head. “There was no one there to witness the deed, and, when your father’s successor was appointed, they had probably long since crossed the sea. Their names were not even known, and your father’s blood is unavenged to this day.”
“Mother!” exclaimed the boy, fiercely, “I will avenge my father! I swear it!”
“Poor boy! You avenge him? You do not even know who his murderers were,” said she, gently.
“I will have vengeance on the whole world!” exclaimed the boy. “All my enemies shall suffer for his death! What did you do, mother, when you beheld my father’s body? You laid your hand on his eyes, and swore to avenge him, did you not?”
“No, my son. I sank down by your father’s body, kissed his hand, and took leave of him whom alone I had loved. But yet, I did register one oath! I swore that henceforth I would love nothing but the child I bore under my heart–his child. I also swore that the veil with which he had covered my face should never be lifted by another man. Many a one longed to take Ibrahim Aga’s widow to wife, for, talkative as love and happiness always are, he had told them of his love and his happiness, and they thought that they, too, might obtain this through me. But I rejected them, though I was poor and possessed nothing but this hut to shelter myself and my child, as yet unborn. For the sake of this child, I rallied my energies and dried my eyes. A mother who has not yet given birth should not weep; her tears would fall on the child and make its heart sick and its eyes dim, and I wished my child to see the world with his father’s eyes, to begin life with his father’s heart. Therefore I implored Allah to give strength and joyousness to the life that was to be devoted to my child. One night I had a strange, wondrous, and beautiful dream. On a sparkling throne I saw a man in glittering armor, his sword high uplifted, his eyes flaming, his countenance lustrous with beauty. I knew this man, although I had never seen him. His countenance was that of my Ibrahim, and yet it was another- it was his son! In my dream I was distinctly conscious that it was my son I beheld before me. He looked not at me, but out upon the world with an angry eye. At his feet thousands lay extended upon the ground in deep reverence. Far behind him I saw a strange landscape, such as I had never before beheld. On a wide, yellow waste of sand, stood towering proud and mighty structures of wondrous form, their summits glittering in the sunshine. And, strange to say, afar off, on a magnificent palace, I saw the same man I had before beheld, his sword again uplifted, and above his head shone the crescent with the three stars. All at once the man became transformed into a child that shone like an angel, and this angel stretched out its arms and flew toward me. In my dream I extended my arms toward this vision, and cried, ‘My son-my son!’ This cry awakened me. On the following day you were born. When I saw and greeted you with Allah’s blessing, I was startled to find the child I held in my arms the same as the angel that had flown to me in my dream! Oftentimes since I have thought of this dream, and endeavored to interpret it, for the agathodaemon that watches over men, and protects them from the ghins and their evil pinions, sometimes sends dreams to the unhappy to announce to them the future. I thought my agathodaemon had sent me this dream, “One day some gypsies came to Cavalla on a ship that landed here to procure provisions. They remained here several days, and made a business of fortune-telling. I went to an old woman, said to be the greatest prophetess, held out my hand, and demanded that she should announce the future of myself and my son. The old woman gazed at me with a strange look, and said: –You wish your dream interpreted?’
“This startled me, for I had rarely spoken of my dream, and the old woman could not have heard of it. She had been in Cavalla but two days, and who should have told her of the poor, obscure woman, Sitta Khadra? But this question startled me to the very soul, and it seemed to me that this woman must tell me the truth. I motioned to her to tell me my dream. She related the entire dream with every circumstance, and interpreted it.”
“How did she interpret it?” asked Mohammed, in breathless suspense.
“She said to me: ‘Your son will one day become a prince and a hero; he will see a whole nation bowed down at his feet; he will wield the sword over this people, and bring them under his yoke. Your son shall be a ruler; palaces shall be his, and among the mighty he shall be the mightiest. Destiny announced this to you through the man transformed into the angel that flew to you, and who is your son. All hail, Khadra, for you shall be the mother of the mightiest, of the master of the earth!'”
“Is this true? Am I to be a prince, a mighty ruler?” asked Mohammed, in ecstasy. “I am to behold nations at my feet? Repeat it again, what did she say?”
“Yes, she said this: –A prince shall he become, nations shall he behold at his feet, and the whole world shall talk of and praise him.'”
“I swear to you, mother, that she shall have told the truth! I swear to you, by the spirit of my father, by Allah and by the prophets, I will make the old woman’s prophecy the truth! I shall be a prince, a great ruler, and whole nations shall bow down in the dust before me. I thank you, mother, for having foretold my future, and I only implore that Allah may graciously permit my mother to live to see the fulfilment of the prophecy. Now I know what I have to do, and, when the boys ask me again what is to become of poor Mohammed, I shall tell them: –I will make of him a prince, a hero, a king.’ Yes, I will speak thus to them, and thus it shall be! And with them I shall begin! These cowardly boys shall be my subjects, and woe to them if they do not pay the tribute! O mother, beautiful days are in store for you!”
“My dear, foolish boy,” said the mother, regarding him tenderly, “you dream of a brilliant future, but it is impossible to realize this dream. We are poor, and Fortune seldom resides with the poor.”
“I will make us rich!” exclaimed the boy; “yes, I will make us rich, though as yet I know not how I am to do it. But do you know who shall assist me in doing so?”
“I think I do,” replied the mother, smiling, “you will ask your good friend Mr. Lion?”
Mohammed nodded assent. “Rightly guessed, mother! To him I shall go and ask him how to begin to become a rich man. Let me do so at once, my heart is burning to ask this question.”
He seized his red cap, pulled it over his brown hair, took leave of his mother, hurried into the street, and out of the poverty-stricken little suburb, toward the main thoroughfare, where the wealthy lived. He walked on, reflecting profoundly over what his mother had related, and without noticing the boys who were coming toward him. When they perceived him, they stepped aside as if ashamed to meet the boy who had excelled and conquered them, slipped into the next house, closed the door which extended only half-way up the doorway behind them, and looked out over it.
“Only look at him!” they cried, derisively. “He is good for nothing. He can do nothing. What is he to become but a beggar? Who will pity him when his uncle is dead, and his mother sick and bedridden? Then he will have to serve us, and pay us tribute.”
They continued to laugh at him, but he walked on quietly. Their malicious words had not escaped him, but he took no notice of them. Proudly and composedly he walked on, murmuring to himself in a low voice: “They shall pay for this some day! They too are my enemies, on whom I intend to be avenged, fearfully avenged!”
These thoughts were still expressed in his features as he entered the great store of the merchant Lion. Hastily he threaded his way down the narrow path that lay between the bales and barrels, toward the light that shone at the end. There stood the merchant’s office. Now he hears a kindly voice welcoming him.
“Behold the hero of Imbro, the daring conqueror of the sea! Welcome my hero, welcome!”
He stood still, listening to these tones, a happy smile over- spreading his countenance. How beautiful it is to be thus welcomed! To be sure, as yet it is only a friendly greeting, and half in mockery, but this greeting shall one day resound from the throats of whole nations, and not in mockery. Shall they hail him, “Welcome, thou hero!” This he swears shall be, as he steps up to Mr. Lion, who extends both hands to him over his counter, and regards him tenderly.
“Here again, my Mohammed! They have been speaking of you all day, and three men have already been here to tell of your heroic deed. Let me see your hands. Yes, they are torn and bleeding. Yes, my boy, I have rejoiced with you, and am proud with you for having put those boys to shame.”
“I thank you, sir,” said he, earnestly; “yet it is not enough to conquer boys; one must also conquer men and nations!”
Mr. Lion regarded him with wonder. “What is this you are saying? What are you busying your brain with now?”
“With many things, sir; I desire you to help me provide for my future.”
“I am delighted, Mohammed,” said the merchant, regarding him with a friendly smile, “I am delighted to see you thoughtful of your future. I have often scolded your mother about you; you are tall and sensible for your age, are almost a young man, and it would become you to be taking care of yourself. But both your mother and your Uncle Toussoun are spoiling you in their anxiety to strew your pathway with rose-leaves, and guard you from every hardship.”
“They would,” said the boy, shrugging his shoulders, “if I allowed them, but I will not! I will bare my face to the storm, and walk on thorns instead of rose-leaves, in order that my feet may become hardened. Therefore, tell me, dear sir, what I am to do to provide for my future.”
“That is hard to tell,” replied Lion, with a sigh. “For every thing a certain something is necessary, which you, unfortunately, do not possess.”
“And what is this something? ” asked the boy, hastily
“Money,” replied the merchant. “It is not enough to pray to Allah, and to receive into one’s soul the precepts of the Koran; one must also use one’s hands industriously, and learn the precepts of worldly wisdom, and the very first of these is, ‘Have money, and you can obtain all else.'”
“I will have money, that I may obtain all else!” exclaimed Mohammed; “only tell me how to procure it.”
“That is just where the difficulty lies, you foolish boy,” said the merchant, stroking his brown hair gently. “Those who rob and plunder make it much easier for themselves in the world, and I have known many a one to begin his career as a robber who, subsequently, ruled over men as a grand pacha. Yet I am confident that it is not in this manner you wish to acquire riches, but as an honest man.”
“Yes, as an honest man! I desire to gain honor, magnificence, and wealth, by the power of my will and my intellect.”
“Honor, magnificence, and wealth?” repeated Mr. Lion. “These are grand words, my boy! It will be very difficult to accomplish so much, and I can render you no assistance in doing so, yet I will take you into my business and try to make a merchant of you, if you wish it.”
“Merchant!” repeated the boy, thoughtfully. “I have nothing that I could sell.”
“Yet you can sell yourself. Do not look at me so angrily! I do not mean that you should sell yourself as a slave, but do business with your head, your work, and your good-will. Help me to wait on my customers, to sell goods, and to praise them with pleasing manners, and I will furnish you with food and clothing, and pay you monthly wages besides, which you can give to your mother.”
“I should have to stand behind the counter, and play the amiable to people, as I have seen you do?”
“Yes, my son, that you would have to do.”
“I should have to listen quietly to the gossips, spread out before them the carpets, turbans, and Persian shawls; and, as I have seen you do, cover the spots with my hands and praise the goods, and then hear them scold, and bargain, and cheapen?”
“Really, you will make a good merchant; I see you have learned a great deal already.”
“I should, when the women stroll in and seat themselves at the counter, have to wait on them humbly with coffee, and beg them to do us the honor? Should have to hear them talk about their domestic affairs, their cats, and their dogs, and appear to be delighted with the sweetness of their voices, and the lustre of their eyes?”
“By your prophet, you are a finished merchant, and will make a splendid salesman!”
“No, I shall not!” cried the boy. “No, sir! I love you with my whole soul, and have often observed and admired how you understand your art, but, forgive me for saying so, I cannot become a merchant! Propose something that I can do.”
“Very well! I will propose something else; become a writer, learn the art, understood by so few, of putting words spoken by others on paper with signs. I should be well pleased, as I need a writer. The one I have has grown old and lazy, and, though I can speak your language, I cannot write it. Yes, learn to write, and then you will be provided for permanently, for writers are rare, and–“
“I will not learn it!” said the boy, interrupting him; “I will have nothing to do with the pen. I will write my name with the sword on the faces of my enemies!”
“That would be a beautiful handwriting!’ observed Mr. Lion, laughing. “It will, however, be some time before you can do that, and, in the mean while, I would advise you to go to old Scha-er Mehsed, the story-teller. He knows wonderful tales, and the whole history of the great Prophet Mohammed. You know, in the evenings, crowds assemble around him, and it fairly rains pennies. But Scha-er Mehsed has grown old, and hard to understand because he has lost his teeth. Go and listen to him, then take your seat on the stone and tell stories of the olden time yourself.”
“No, Mr. Lion, that does not suit me either. I will first do great deeds before I tell of them. Not until I have grown old shall the men and women assemble around me; then they shall hear of my deeds. But to tell of the deeds of others only, would give me no pleasure. I see nothing is left me but to become a soldier. Yes, a soldier.”
“I, too, believe that would be the best thing for you,” said Mr. Lion, with a kindly nod of the head. “But then you must wait until you are larger and stronger, for they do not make soldiers of boys, and you are still a boy. At ten years of age one is not yet a man, my little hero. But at fifteen you will be a youth, and then you will be accepted as a soldier. And I prophesy for you a great and brilliant career as such. Until then, however, I promise to help your mother to take care of you, and, if I can serve you in any way, come to me, for you know I love you, and will gladly do what I can for you.”
“Until then I will be the general of the boys of Cavalla, and they shall all bow down to me, and pay me tribute.”
Since that day a great change had taken place in Mohammed Ali. He was graver and more silent, and participated less in the games of the boys. He no longer laughed and jested as he had formerly done, but he was all the more busily occupied with his gun, inherited from his father, exercising himself in shooting, and almost always hitting his mark. He also strengthened his limbs by fencing with his old uncle, who had formerly been a soldier, or by throwing himself into the sea, to struggle with the waves and allow himself to be buffeted about by them for hours. The boy prepared himself to become a man, and he did so with his whole soul, and with the whole strength of his will.
He often wandered in solitude among the rocks on the heights, or lingered on the beach below; and when he would return to his mother, on such occasions, she could see reflected in his countenance the great thoughts that agitated her boy’s soul. He seemed to her to grow visibly taller each day; that the boy was transforming himself into a man with wonderful rapidity. She knew that this boy would become a hero; she had seen it in the expression of his eyes while relating her dream, and she comprehended the longing which filled his soul, for her soul was strong and aspiring like his, and Mohammed had inherited his ambition and strong will from his mother Khadra.
“He thinks as I should think were I a man,” said Khadra to herself, as she sat on the threshold of her door regarding her son. “Neither should I be contented with our present miserable existence if I were a man. I, too, should desire to go out and struggle with the world. Alas! but I am only a poor widow, living a miserable, solitary life, awaiting the day when death shall call me, and unite me in Paradise with Ibrahim Aga, my master. But let the young eagle brood and think until his wings are grown, and then let him fly into the world out of this miserable, rocky nest. May Allah bless his purpose, and Mohammed the prophet protect him! Allah il Allah!”
While the mother was praying, and looking out wistfully into the twilight, Mohammed was sitting in his rocky cave down on the shore.
This was as yet his only possession, his palace! No one knew of this cave, discovered by the boy while wandering on the shore. He had crept into a narrow opening in the rock which he had observed among the cliffs, that was hardly large enough to admit of the passage of his slender body. He crept on his hands and knees, and noticed with delight that this opening widened into a cave. He went on, deeper and deeper into the darkness, when suddenly he saw a bright light overhead, and discovered that he was in a wide cave, lighted from above by a round opening as by a window.
Through this opening he could view the sea, and the sky above.
This cave was known to no one else, and Mohammed carefully preserved the secret of its existence.
This cave was his palace! Here he could dream of the future; here, in impenetrable solitude, he could dwell with his thoughts; from here he could look up and implore counsel from the heavens above, or look down at the foaming sea beneath, and refresh his soul with its majesty.
By degrees he had made this cave habitable. Who knows but it may be necessary to seek it as a refuge from pursuit and danger some day? Who knows but that he may be compelled to seek safety here some day from his enemies, or even from his friends?
Whatever he could spare from the little sums of money which his mother occasionally gave him, or from the presents of Mr. Lion or his old uncle, he devoted to the purchase of bedding, or some other article of furniture of the kind used in the huts of the poor. And then at night, when no one could see him, he would creep with these things into his cave, his palace of the future. Sometimes, while sitting there dreaming, the deep-blue sky looking down upon him, the sun throwing a ray of golden light through the cave, strange visions would appear to him. The cave would transform itself into a glittering palace, and the wretched mat that lay on the ground became a luxurious silken couch, on which he reclined, smoking his tschibak, while slaves stood around in reverential attitudes, ready to do his bidding. When seated on his rickety stool–a costly possession–for it had been bought with the last remnant of his money, it seemed to him that, clothed in purple, he had mounted his throne, around which wondrous strains of melody resounded. It did not occur to him that it was the murmur of the waves beating upon the rock-bound shore without; to him they were the triumphant songs of his future greeting him, the ruler.
“A ruler, a hero, a prince, he is to be,” said the prophetess to his mother, and he will do what he can to fulfil this prophecy.
It was with a great effort only that he could tear himself away from such ecstatic dreams; quit his hidden paradise, and go out into the world, into reality again.
One cannot live on dreams; one must eat, too. But it annoys him that he is subjected to this wretched necessity of eating.
“If I should have nothing to eat; if I should become so poor and miserable as to have no bread, must I then die be cause I am in the habit of eating?” he would ask himself, in angry tones.
“I will learn to live without eating!” he cried, in a loud voice.
For days he would wander about in the forests and among the rocks, at a distance from all human habitations, taking no food, in order that he might accustom himself to live on little.
On one occasion he remained absent from his mother’s hut two days and nights, and Khadra awaited his return in deathly anxiety. Will he never return; has she lost him, her only son, the hope of her future, the blessing of her existence?
At last, on the third day, she sees him coming; pale and exhausted, he totters toward her, and yet his bearing is defiant, and his eye sparkles.
She hurries forward with extended arms to meet him. “Where have you been, my beloved; where were you tarrying in the distance, forgetting that a mother’s heart was longing for you?”
He pressed his mother’s hand to his lips, looking steadfastly into her eyes. “I was with my future, Mother Khadra,” said he in a low voice. “I was with the days that are to come, the days when I shall stand on the palace, a man, a hero, sword in hand, at my feet a people looking up to me imploringly. You see, mother, your dream is fulfilled, the hero who stands up there has again transformed himself into your boy! He is here and greets you.”
“But why is my boy pale and exhausted?” asked Sitta Khadra, anxiously, as she clasped him in her arms.
“I don’t know!” said he, wearily. “It seems to me that my feet refuse to bear me longer, that something is drawing me upward. Let us go to the hut, mother.”
He grasped her arm hastily and led her away as though he were quite strong, but Khadra observed that his lips trembled, and that his face was pallid.
“He looks hungry,” she murmured to herself. “Yes, I see he is hungry! Buried in his thoughts, he has again forgotten to take food.”
She said no more, but walked hastily to the hut and led him in. “Son of my heart, I have been awaiting you,” said she, with an innocent air. “I did not wish to partake of our simple supper until my son had come home. Let us sit down and eat. Allah bless our meal!”
It does not escape her that his eye suddenly glitters as he looks at the bread and dates brought yesterday by the boys as his tribute.
With a quick motion he stretches out his hand toward the fruit, but suddenly withdraws it, as if ashamed of himself.
“It does not become children to seat themselves before their parents, and eat before they have broken bread. Eat, mother; seat yourself, and allow your son to wait on you.”
That he might not feel hurt, she seated herself quickly and took part of the fruit offered her. She handed him some, and now human nature conquered the spirit, and he heartily ate of the fruit and bread.
“Where were you, my boy? Light of my eyes, where were you?” asked the mother.
“Up there among the rocks, and below on the shore,” replied he, smiling.
“Where did you find food there? I know that eagles, hawks, and doves, find their food among the rocks, but for mankind there is no food there.”
“And I found none, Mother Khadra; I must learn to do with little, to conquer hunger, and I fought with it for two days. See how I am rewarded!–my food never tasted so deliciously before.”
“Eat, my boy! Allah bless your food and drink! How fortunate that I have something for your thirst, too! Uncle Toussoun Aga brought me to-day a bottle of Cyprian wine, a present from Mr. Lion. You must drink of it, my boy.”
He shook his head. “No, Sitta Khadra, I will not drink of the wine sent you by the noble merchant to restore your strength. Water from the well, from the spring of life, is a better drink for me. For you, the Cyprian wine, for me the spring-wine that bubbles from the rock.”
He took down the gourd cup from the wall, and went out and quenched his thirst with long draughts at the spring, and then returned to his mother. He was now restored to strength and vigor; the color returned to his cheeks, and his knees no longer trembled.
“My eyes’ delight, my Mohammed fresh and full of life again!” cried Mother Khadra. “Light of my life, I am glad to see you yourself again. But I beg you, my boy, not to make such cruel experiments on yourself. It is wholesome to harden the body, but not to abuse it, and you abuse your own handsome self when you torment yourself with hunger and thirst unnecessarily.”
“Not unnecessarily, Mother Khadra,” he replied, shaking his head. “He, only, who knows how to practise self-denial, can enjoy. At first I couldn’t understand this, now I do, and have experienced it in myself. I have practised self-denial for two days, and now I have enjoyed; and thus it shall be in the future, Sitta Khadra. I shall learn to do without, in order that I may enjoy. Do not scold me for this; do not say, with the rest, that I am an obstinate boy! I am not, mother, but I must prepare myself for the future which you have announced to me. Your dream must be realized, and therefore must I do what I am doing. Let me have my way, and remember that Allah is with me everywhere. And remember this, too, mother, that wherever I may be, I shall hear your call should you need me. If, at any time when I am not here, you should need me, you have only to step out before the door, and imitate the scream of the eagle when he hovers in the air over his nest, and announces to his brood that he is coming. You recollect hearing it when we were on the cliffs together the other day. I pointed to an eagle hovering in the air, imitated his cry, and begged you to do so too. It was not done without a purpose, mother: I wished you to learn his cry, in order that you, too, might call your brood in case of need.”
The mother smiled. “A strange idea! What would people think if I should step out before the door, and scream into the air in the tones of an eagle?”
“Let people think what they please, mother,” said he, with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders. “What care we? They already laugh at and mock us. But a time shall come, Sitta Khadra, when they shall bow down before you, and I only implore that Allah may permit you to live to see the time when your son shall stand on the palace, and wield his sword over humanity. Why do you sigh, mother?” he asked hastily, and what he had never before observed, suddenly occurred to him; her cheeks were sunken, and her face pale. “Why do you weep, mother?”
“I know not, my son. I only fear the time is yet far distant when Mohammed Ali shall stand on the palace with uplifted sword, the nations bowed down before him! I am only afraid I shall not live to see this time.”
“Are you ill, mother; are you ill?” cried the boy, anxiously and tenderly. He rushed to her, clasped her in his arms, and fixed his brown eyes on hers with an earnest, anxious look. “Tell me–I conjure you in the name of the prophet–tell me, are you ill, Sitta Khadra?”
She forced herself to regard him with a smile. “No, light of my eyes! beloved of my soul! When I see you, I am not ill; when I see and hear you, my heart is in health and at rest, and–“
“You have no disease, no pains?” asked her son, interrupting her. “Your cheeks are pale, and your lips tremble. Tell me, nothing ails you, you are quite well?”
“Quite well, my beloved, and nothing ails me. All that is wanting in my poor life is the moment when you shall have become a great man, honored by men, and blessed by Allah.”
“Honored by men, I will become; the blessing of Allah you shall implore down upon my head, mother! You must only remain in health to see me in my grandeur. You will not pain me, mother, by falling ill, and following my father Ibrahim Aga, before you can say to him, –My dream is realized, and your son Mohammed has become a great and mighty hero,’ will you? Leave me not too soon, mother; promise to remain with me on earth until the prophecy is fulfilled.”
“Dear boy!” said she, with a sad smile. “How can the poor child of earth promise what Allah must alone decide? We must walk as Allah directs, and submit to his will. with humility, for thus it is written in the Koran: –Before the great God who sits enthroned above the stars, bow thy head in humility; Allah determines, and man shall obey in pious submission. So must we, my boy! Man is mortal, and passes away; as the withered leaf is wafted away by the wind and perishes, so the storm wind of life seizes upon man and destroys him.”
“But not you, not you, mother!” cried the boy, fiercely grasping his mother’s shoulders in childish anger.” No, I will not believe it, and it shall not be! The storm shall not destroy you, for you must live to see your son great and mighty, that he may recompense you for your days of sorrow and suffering.”
“You hurt me,” said his mother, gently releasing her shoulders from his grasp. Mohammed burst into tears that poured down his cheeks in streams.
The mother kissed them away. “My son, pearl of my existence!–only light in life’s night!–my beloved son, what would I be without you? what should I do in the dark night without the luster of this star? I kiss these eyes, son of my heart, and bless you with Allah’s blessing! Be strong and brave, my son, and weep not! Leave tears to women. You are a man in spite of your thirteen years, therefore weep not; even though the worst should befall, weep not.”
“The worst? What does that mean, mother? You wish to prepare me, I read it in your look; you wish to prepare me for your death! If you die, I will die, too; if you die, my whole life will I bury in the sea, and–“
He could speak no further, and heart-sick he bowed his head upon his mother’s shoulder.
“You are not yourself, poor boy,” said she, gently, as she bathed his forehead with water; “you see the body still governs the mind, and long fasting has made you weak. Remember this, my boy. To keep the mind vigorous you must give the body nourishment; if you had not fasted for two days, you would not weep now. Not because you are alarmed, but because you are weak, do you weep.”
He understood these words of heroism; he understood that maternal love had given her strength to console him with these quiet, matter- of-fact utterances. He tenderly kissed her hands, murmuring: “Sitta Khadra, you are a heroine, and I will learn from you to be a hero.”
They sat in each other’s embrace for a long time, silent, and yet they were speaking to each other with their thoughts and souls, and understood what soul said to soul, and heart to heart. Often, after long years, will the son still think of this hour when he sat by his mother’s side, in solitude and silence, his head resting on her bosom–in his glittering palace will he still think of it? In the fulness of his magnificence, with the soul’s eye, will he look into this poor, dark little chamber will he longingly think of his mother, of his first and holiest love?
“Promise me, Mohammed,” said she, after a long silence, “promise me that you will never fast and torture yourself so long again.”
“I promise you, Sitta Khadra,” he replied in a low voice, “you are right; the body must be strengthened that the soul may be strong. I need a strong body that I may be able to climb the rocky pathway of life to the summit, to the eagle’s eyry, far above the lowliness of life. I promise you, mother, that from this day I will no longer torture my body, but it shall be taught to defy want, and to subordinate itself to the mind. Do not scold, Mother Khadra, if I am often away from you. In solitude I learn. I converse with the invisible spirits that hover about me in the air. They teach me wondrous things, which I cannot relate to you to-day, but which help me to prepare for the future. Do not forget, mother, when I am away from you, and you need me, to call me with the eagle’s cry.”
A faint smile trembled on her lips. “If, however, son of my heart, I should be unable to utter this cry, if my voice should be too weak to reach you-“
He again regarded her with an anxious, inquiring look. “Can that be, Sitta Khadra? Do you believe your voice can become so weak?”
“Be reassured, my son; I neither believe nor fear it, but yet it might be.”
“Yes, it might be,” said he, passing his trembling hand across his brow. “I shall go to Uncle Toussoun Aga and tell him how to call me. Only promise me, mother, that, if you need me, and are not able to call yourself, you will send for uncle and tell him to do so. I could otherwise have no peace; could not attend to my work and occupation, unless I knew that you would have me called to you when you need me.”
“It shall be so, my son. When I need you, you shall be called, and now do not allow yourself to be disturbed in your occupations. Fly out, young eagle, out into the air, out among the rocks, and learn from heaven and earth what to do to prepare for your future.”
She kissed his brow and laid her hand on his head in a blessing. Mohammed kissed this hand, and then sprang to his feet and went to his old uncle Toussoun Aga. With perfect gravity he begged permission to teach him the eagle’s cry, that he might be able to call him when his mother should need him.
The old man looked up from the fishing-nets, at which he was working, in utter bewilderment. “What possesses you, Mohammed Ali? What an idea to take into your head, to train the old fellow who is good for nothing but to make nets for the fishermen, in which they catch the red mareles and the blue flyers–to train this old fellow to imitate the eagle and scream like the king of the air!”
“And yet you must learn to cry like this same eagle, uncle!” With resistless force he drew his uncle from his mat, and almost compelled him to go up with him to the verge of the rock. High above where the cliff projects far out into the sea, there, with a serious air, Mohammed taught his uncle the eagle’s cry.
At first his uncle refused to imitate him and utter the cry as directed, but Mohammed regarded him with so wild and angry a look, and then entreated him in such soft and tender tones to do it for his dear mother’s sake, whose call would, perhaps, be too weak to reach him, that the old man could at last no longer refuse.
When he had imitated him in a loud, shrill voice, Mohammed smiled and nodded approvingly.
“That will do. And if I should be ever so distant and hear this cry, I will come home to mother. But tell me, Uncle Toussoun Aga, tell me, by all that is holy, by the prophet and by the name of Allah, tell me the truth: is my mother ill?”
Toussoun Aga’s countenance assumed a very grave expression, and he looked down confused.
“Answer me!” cried Mohammed, vehemently. “Is my mother ill? In the name of the prophet, I command you to tell me the truth!”
“Do not demand it, son of my beloved brother, Ibrahim Aga,” said the old man, sorrowfully. “It does not become man to pry into the mysteries of Allah. We are all in Allah’s hand, and what be determines must be, and we should not attempt to look into the future.”
“Yet tell me–and may Allah forgive me for wishing to look into the future–is my mother ill?”
“She looks pale,” murmured the old man. “When she walks her breath is short, and, when she gives me her hands in greeting, I feel them burn as though fire flowed in her veins. But it may pass away, nephew. She may recover; she is still weak from her former illness; you recollect the severe fever she had? But she will recover, and for this purpose Mr. Lion sent her the strengthening wine; it will do her good, and she will get better.”
“Yes, she will get better,” said the boy. “It is impossible she should die, for I should then be entirely alone in the world.”
“Entirely alone?” asked the old man, regarding him reproachfully. “As long as Toussoun Aga lives, his nephew, Mohammed Ali, is not entirely alone.”
Mohammed held out his hand. “Thanks, uncle.” He nodded to the old man, turned away, and sprang off over the rocks with such rapid bounds that old Toussoun looked after him in amazement.
“He leaps like a gazelle. Light is his step, and splendid his figure. How long will he still bless his mother’s sight? how long shall my old eyes be gladdened by this young gazelle, this young eagle?”
The old man bowed his head upon his breast, and two tears trickled slowly down his cheeks.
PREMONITION OF DEATH.
Since the day when Mohammed had first conceived a dark foreboding of his mother’s insidious disease, he had become more earnest and gloomy in his disposition. The other boys avoided meeting and coming into collision with him; they paid the well-earned tribute of fruits from their parents’ gardens, and assumed an almost humble demeanor in his presence. He sometimes challenged them to race or wrestle with him, but only the strongest and most active would enter into such trials with him, and he always remained the victor. They were in the habit of turning down a side street when they saw him advancing toward them, and, when they observed him among the rocks with his little gun on his shoulder, they would hide themselves behind some rocky projection and remain concealed until he had passed. But Mohammed saw them. His eye would glitter when he passed their hiding-places, and a contemptuous smile play about his lips. “The hawks fear the eagle,” he would murmur to himself, “but the eagle will some day pluck out their feathers and show them that he is master.”
Striving to earn money to procure little luxuries for his mother, he would more rarely absent himself from home for longer periods than formerly. When the storm raged, and, the boldest fishermen feared to venture over to Imbro where their nets were laid, Mohammed would offer to go for them, provided they gave him double wages; and the fishermen, fearing that the wild waves might bear away their nets filled with the rare fish that only came up from the deep during the storm, would willingly accede to his demands. One day when the sea was roaring and foaming wildly, one of the fishermen stood upon the shore imploring Allah to save the nets he had taken to Imbro the day before, and which, assuredly filled with the rarest fish, bad perhaps already become a prey to the waves.
“Why not go after them?” said a mocking voice behind him. “Go over and get your nets.”
The fisherman regarded the intrepid boy Mohammed, who now stood at his side, with severity. “No one would venture out in such a storm. Moreover, this is Thursday, the evil day on which the ghins, who draw men into the deep, are abroad. I must therefore lose my rich catch and the nets besides. Your old uncle, Toussoun Aga, will be well pleased, however, for it will take all I have to purchase new nets from him.”
“My uncle can make no nets at present,” said Mohammed. “He has been ill for weeks; I therefore advise you to save those you have, as you will find it impossible to procure as good ones from anybody else.”
“A good piece of advice!” cried the fisherman, angrily. “But what am I to do if the storm tears my nets away?”
“Try to save your nets,” replied Mohammed, laughing. “What will you give me if I go over and get them and the catch of fish besides?”
“You wouldn’t attempt it! Look how the waves roar and open their wide jaws as if to devour you even here on the shore! You will not venture out.”
“I know the waves,” replied the boy, “and I know your boat. It glides over the water like a nutshell, and the monsters of the deep love me and will safely bear me over to the island on their backs. I will go if you will give me what I ask.”
“What do you, ask?”
“You shall give me half your fish. If I bring them over safely, call four of your friends; let them fairly estimate the price, and then pay me my share. Will you agree to this, Omar?”
“No, I will not! This is unheard of!” cried the fisherman, angrily.
“Just as you please,” said Mohammed, quietly. “You would rather lose the whole, than save half, and the nets besides. Consider well that Toussoun Aga has perhaps made his last nets, and that yours were quite new, and the finest quality he ever made.”
“Be satisfied with a fourth part of the fish, and the bargain made,” said Omar, as he looked longingly toward the island, now, as the waves had subsided somewhat, visible as a dark spot on the horizon. The boy regarded him angrily.
“I am no tradesman, and will not be cheapened. Half of the fish, or I remain here.”
“Well, if it must be, take half, you usurer!” cried the enraged fisherman.
“Where is your boat?” asked Mohammed, quietly.
“Down there in the inlet. And now be quick about it, boy!”
“Directly! But every thing in its order. You must first acknowledge the bargain before witnesses.”
“Before witnesses?” cried the enraged fisherman. “Is not Allah the witness of an honest man’s promise? “
“He is. But who knows but the roaring of the storm has prevented your words from ascending to his ear?” replied Mohammed, with a mocking smile. “I will bring Mr. Lion; you can repeat your words before him.”
Before Omar could prevent him, the boy bounded away to the merchant, and begged him to come and witness Omar’s promise. The merchant willingly followed his favorite in spite of the storm and the spray which the waves tossed up to the spot where the men were standing. When he learned what was in contemplation, and when Omar had repeated his promise, the merchant shook his head resolutely. “This cannot and shall not be. You shall not drive the boy out in such weather; the sea is an open grave, as it were!”
“Mr. Lion!” cried Mohammed, advancing toward him, his arms folded on his breast. “Look at me! Why do you call me a boy? Am I not taller than many of the men on our island; am I not stronger than many boys of eighteen?”
“It is true,” said Mr. Lion. “Though only fourteen, you are no longer a boy. I beg your pardon, Mohammed Ali, for considering your years and not your strength. But all the same, whether youth or boy, no one goes to sea in such weather.”
“I will show you that one does go to sea in such weather, when good wages are to be made!” exclaimed Mohammed, as he, before the merchant could prevent him, quickly ran down to the little inlet, loosened Omar’s boat from its fastening, and sprang into it.
He was soon out among the waves. They roar and surge around him, but what cares he? He throws himself down in the boat and holds fast with both hands. The waves alternately lift him aloft, and bury him out of sight. It is splendid sport. It is long since Mohammed has felt so well as now, when tossed in his frail skiff on the foaming deep. He shouts in exultation
“Thus will I battle my life long! Thus will I ever vanquish difficulties through life! And see, the wind is favorable, and I shall get over!”
What he had exultingly shouted to the waves, took place; he got safely over, found the nets in good condition, drew them ashore, and waited on the rock until the storm had somewhat subsided. Really it seemed that Sitta Khadra was right: his agathodaemon watched over him, for, sooner than usual, the tempest calmed down, and the sun broke forth from behind the clouds. It was now a comparatively easy matter for Mohammed to get back to the opposite shore where Omar was awaiting him with several of his comrades. The fisherman’s face was angry and lowering. It annoyed him that he had not waited for the storm to go down, instead of making the bargain with Mohammed, for he must now keep his word and pay the boy what he had earned. This day his rich catch of fish gave Omar no pleasure. His face grew darker and darker, while the men were opening the nets and counting the fish. It was well that the shrewd boy had caused Omar to repeat his promise before a witness, and before so highly esteemed a wit ness, for the fisherman would have otherwise refused, in all probability, to share the harvest of his nets with Mohammed.
He was now compelled to yield to the decision of the fishermen, who declared that the half of the fish caught were worth at least four ducats. The boy’s eyes sparkled with delight as Omar reluctantly and hesitatingly drew the money from his long leather purse and handed it to him.
“It will bring you no blessing!” growled the fisherman. “You are a greedy, headstrong boy; you deprive the father of a family of half his hard earnings. The ghins will pay you back for what you have swindled me out of.”
“I have swindled you out of nothing. I risked my life for four ducats, have earned them honestly, and it does not become you to abuse me for it before these people.–Speak yourselves, you men, am I right?”
“Certainly you are right,” they cried with one voice.
“No; no one can abuse you for receiving your well-earned wages,” said Mr. Lion, beckoning to the boy to follow him.
“You must be exhausted–come with me to my home. You shall dine with me and drink a glass of wine. Your clothes are thoroughly drenched; you shall dry them at the fire.”
Mohammed laughed. “Wet I am, to be sure, but the fire that burns in my veins will soon dry the stuff. I will, however, gladly eat a little and drink a glass of wine with you. It was a hard fight with the sea-monsters, they seemed to roar in my ears, ‘We will have you, we will pull you down!’ And yet it sounded sweetly! There is no finer music than when, the sea-monsters come up from the deep and sing their wild songs.”
“You are a strange being,” said Mr. Lion, regarding him lovingly. “I rejoice in you, and, if it were not that people would say of me that I wished to convert a Mussulman to my religion, I would gladly adopt you as my son. Tell me, if I should leave this place, would you go with me to the land of the Franks, accept my religion, and become the heir of my fortune?”
“And you ask this? Say that it was a jest! For you surely could not desire that the son of his father should become a renegade! No, Mr. Lion, a Mussulman who could allow himself to be converted into a Christian dog–pardon me for having uttered this word, it was not intended for you, but–“
“But only for the Christian dog!” said Mr. Lion, smiling. “Let us leave it as it is. You have offended me, and I you. Let us be friends again, and empty a glass with each other.”
Mohammed accompanied him to his house and ate with him and drank of the fiery Cyprian wine. After having refreshed and strengthened himself, he turned to Mr. Lion with a merry countenance:
“Now to a little business matter that I have to transact with you; for, if I had not met you below, I should have come up here after you. Look at my four magnificent ducats; I should like to invest them with you.”
“You are a shrewd lad, and are disposed to improve your good fortune. That is right, and without so doing, one makes no progress in the world.”
“You shall invest them with me, and they shall bear you good interest.”
“Not in that way,” cried Mohammed. “I have no desire to lay a grain of sand on a mountain, with the expectation that it will bear fruit, whereas it is only lost among the others. No, I wish to buy goods. You have always been kind and friendly to me, and from me you will certainly not demand as much as from the rich people of the town, or the governor.”
“You are right, Mohammed. You shall have the goods at the price they cost me. What will you have?”
“A magnificent silk dress, and a long white veil, such as the ladies of rank wear.”
“See, see!” exclaimed the merchant, regarding the boy, whose eyes fairly sparkled in amazement. “You were right, Mohammed, you are no longer a boy. You are in love, and it is assuredly a bride to whom Mohammed wishes to present this love-offering?”
“No, Mr. Lion, no bride, but a love-offering the articles certainly are.”
“Only an amorous intrigue, then?” asked the merchant, shrugging his shoulders. “You are beginning early with such things, Mohammed. Yet I am glad you are not about to affiance yourself, as is customary here at your age, with a girl ten years old, whose eyes please you, or who has a good dower; ten years later, after she has been long- veiled, and you no longer know how she looks, you marry her and take a wife to your home, whom to be sure you have often seen and often spoken to, but of whose present looks you know nothing.”
“If we do not like her, we send her back to her mother. There is nothing that binds us to keep the woman we do not like, and our prophet has arranged this very wisely–while you Christians must keep the woman, though you sometimes find yourselves very badly deceived. Praise to Allah, and thanks to the prophet!”
“Then it is an amorous intrigue? Well, I will not demand the reason, for the young gentleman certainly knows the first law of love– discretion,” observed the merchant, with a smile.
“I have no use for that law,” said Mohammed, proudly. “You shall know. This love-offering is for my mother. She is the only woman I love, and she will also be the only one I shall ever love. Give me a beautiful dress, richly embroidered, and a veil adorned with golden fringe. She shall go no more to the mosque so poorly dressed. She shall be magnificently arrayed, that she may be envied by all other women. Give me something very handsome.”
“You shall have it, my boy. Excuse me for calling you so again, but this time it is done to show you my love for your childlike heart. Come with me to the hall. You shall select the handsomest dress, regardless of the cost.”
He led him to the hall in which he kept the magnificent goods from which the ladies in the harems of the Turks of rank were accustomed to select their festal dresses, and spread the beautiful goods out before Mohammed. The boy’s eyes sparkled with pleasure as he beheld this costly array. He selected a magnificent piece of purple satin embroidered with silver, and an Indian veil of the finest make, adorned with fringe of real gold. It was a suit that would have delighted the daughters of the sultan at Stamboul, and it did not occur to Mohammed that it was worth at least ten times as much as he had to give for it. Mr. Lion took the four ducats with a smile, and handed him the beautiful goods wrapped in gilt-edged paper. Mohammed, proud of his bargain, took the package, and ran in breathless haste to his mother.
“Here, mother, I bring you something you will like!” he cried.
“Yourself?” asked Khadra, with a gentle smile. “I need nothing else.”
“Yes, Mother Khadra, you do need something else. You need a dress and a veil, such as the other ladies of rank wear. Do not be alarmed, mother, it is honestly acquired. There, take it, and rejoice!” He spread the costly goods out before her, expecting her to cry out with delight. But she only became sad; on her pale cheeks glowed the roses which Death bestows on those whom he is about to call to himself.
“My son!” said she. “This magnificence is not for me!”
“Yes, Mother Khadra, it is indeed for you. Ask the merchant, Lion; I paid for it honestly. You think, perhaps, I have not noticed that the dress in which you go to the mosque is torn and faded? You think, perhaps, I do not know that your head-dress has often been mended? I well know that it has been. I know, too, that the women laugh and say mockingly:–She has not even a Sabbath dress, and appears before Allah in the garb of a beggar!’ Therefore, I rejoice at having been able to procure a new dress for you, mother. Have it made, in order that you may appear before Allah in festive attire.”
“No my son, it is impossible,” said Khadra sadly, as Mohammed held out the costly package.
“Why impossible?” cried he, excitedly.
“Because it does not become the widow of Ibrahim, the poor woman, to array herself in garments of purple, gold-embroidered satin, like the ladies of rank. The women would laugh at and mock me more than ever if I should wear such magnificent garments instead of my faded dress. Neither can I wear the veil. You can preserve all this to give to your bride some day. It does not become old Sitta Khadra to adorn herself thus.”
“You are not old, Mother Khadra,” said he, in half-tender, angry tones. “You are still young, and when you adorn yourself with these garments, there will be no handsomer woman in all Cavalla than Sitta Khadra. I beg you to put them on; but, to please me, leave the veil a little open, as the other women do, that people may see how beautiful my mother is.”
“This is folly, and I, am glad no one else hears your audacious words. No chaste woman opens her veil to permit the gaze of disrespectful men to fall on her, and my son Mohammed does not wish to blush for his mother. My son, take back this package to Mr. Lion. I cannot wear such clothes.”
“You will not take them?” said the boy, hastily seizing the package. “What my heart’s warmest love offers, you reject?”
“I reject it,” said she, gently. “I have no need of such clothes.”
“Very well,” cried he, defiantly. “If you do not need these clothes, I will give them to the mermaids. They, too, like fine clothes, and they will thank me more for that which I have bought with my life. Yes, I will do this!”
He rushed to the door with such violence that Khadra could hardly recall him. “Where are you going, Mohammed?”
“To the cliffs. What my mother despises I will throw, into the sea.”
“Well, if you are about to do that, it shall be as you wish,” said the mother, leading him back from the door. “If the mermaids are to have these beautiful things, it is better Mother Khadra should keep them.”
“You promise me to wear these clothes?” said he, a smile suddenly illuminating his face.
Khadra seated herself, spread out the beautiful goods, and regarded them with a mournful smile. “It looks like mockery.”
“No, not like mockery, but like pure love,” said the boy, eagerly. “My love dresses you in purple and gold, and I wish to see Sitta Khadra the most brilliant among women.” A blissful smile suffused itself over his features. But suddenly this smile disappeared, and his countenance assumed an expression of care and anxiety. At this moment he saw how pale his mother was. Her pallor contrasted strangely with the purple lustre of the goods she held in her hands.
“You are not ill, Mother Khadra; you are not suffering?” said he, in the same anxious tone in which he had so often asked.
“No, my son, I am not ill,” said she, regarding him calmly.
“When I shall some day wear this beautiful dress, and this gold- embroidered veil, you will take delight in me. Thank you, child of my heart, light of my eyes! Thank you for this, splendid present I will hold it in honor while life lasts.”
“I thank you for accepting it, and beg you not to be angry with me for having been so violent,” said Mohammed, entreatingly, as he kissed his mother’s extended hand. “Tell me once more, mother, are you well; do you feel no pain?”
“I feel well, and am not suffering,” said she, regarding him lovingly. ‘I should gladly see you indulge yourself in one of your walks to the cliffs or mountains. It is long since you have taken one. I feel better than usual. I shall go to your sick uncle to wait on him, and when I return I shall lie down. You need not fear that I am waiting for you. Go to the mountains, beloved of my heart!”
“I shall do so gladly,” he cried, embracing and kissing her heartily. He then walked with hasty steps to the door of the hut, and out into the free air.
“I HAVE done work enough to day,” murmured Mohammed to himself, as, after having left his mother, he walked through the dirty suburb to the stairway hewn in the rock that led down to the cliffs. “Yes, I have worked enough, and mother is well; I will therefore go to my paradise, and rest there awhile.”
He sprang down the stairway and walked hastily toward the cliffs. After looking cautiously around, he crept through the narrow opening in the rocks into the passage. The silence did him good, and a happy smile played about his lips. “Here I am king,” he cried, loudly and joyously. “This is my realm, and I shall soon enter my throne- chamber. How have I longed for this, how glad am I!” Suddenly he stood still. “What were Mother Khadra’s words?” he asked himself. “‘Only he who practises self-denial can enjoy.’ Have I not always said to myself that I would accustom myself to want, and learn to enjoy by denying myself that which pleases me? Have I not said that I would not walk on rose-leaves, but learn to tread on thorns, that my feet might become inured to pain? And now, like a foolish child, I am delighted at the prospect of entering my cave, my throne- chamber! ‘Only he who practises self-denial can enjoy.’ Remember that, Mohammed, and learn to practise self-denial; I will learn it!” he cried so loudly that his voice resounded throughout the entire cave.
He turned and retraced his steps. “I would gladly have gone into my cave, would gladly have reclined on my mat, have looked up at the blue sky, and down into the beautiful, sea, that tells me such wondrous stories. Folly! I can hear stories elsewhere. Scha-er Mehsed tells stories, too, and on the whole that is more convenient than to tell them to myself.”
He walks on hastily, without turning once to look back at his beloved grotto, walks on into the world, to men whom he does not love, and who do not love him.
He will learn to practise self-denial, and joyfully he now says to himself: “I am already learning it, and now I can also enjoy.”
At this moment he observed Tschorbadji Hassan, who had just turned a corner of the street, advancing, followed by his servants.
When he perceived the boy, he stood still and greeted him with a gracious smile. Mohammed, his arms folded on his breast, inclined his head profoundly before the mighty man.
“See, Mohammed! The splendid shot! You come at the right moment, Mohammed; I had already sent out a slave after you. Osman, my poor sick son, craves a strange repast. He has seen pigeons whirling through the air, and thinks, probably, because he knows they are not easily to be had, that there can be nothing better in the world than a roasted wild pigeon. Now, I know, Mohammed Ali, that no one can use a gun better than yourself, and it would give me great satisfaction to have you procure some of these birds for my son.”
“I will do it gladly, because it is for Osman,” replied Mohammed. “I will bring them myself, within the hour. I beg you, gracious master, to tell your son that I am glad to be able to do something for him. I must be off after my gun.”
Mohammed withdraws himself with a total absence of ceremony, not waiting until Tschorbadji Hassan Bey dismisses him with a gracious wave of the hand. He flies to his mother’s hut, takes down his gun from the wall, and loads it. He then climbs rapidly among the cliffs in search of the wild-pigeons for the poor sick Osman.
In an hour, Mohammed returned with his game. As he walked along, carrying the four birds in his band, he said to himself with a smile: “Was it not well that I learned to deny myself a pleasure? And here I have the recompense, the enjoyment. For it is a recompense to be able to gratify a wish of dear good Osman; he was always so kind to me.”
He now entered the court-yard of the palace in which Tschorbadji Hassan Bey resided. An Armenian slave stood at the gate, who seemed to have been awaiting the boys. He bowed profoundly, which he had never done before, and announced that his grace Osman Bey was in the garden, and had ordered that Mohammed Ali should bring the pigeons himself, and that Tschorbadji Hassan was also there awaiting him.
“Show me the way, I will follow,” said Mohammed, whose tranquil countenance gave no indication that he felt flattered at the great honor of being admitted to the garden.
The Armenian led the way with an air of profound respect. Proudly, his head erect, Mohammed followed him through the wide hall of the palace and into the garden.
The fragrance arising from the carefully-cultivated flower-beds was delightful; the kiosks and baldachins were so charming! “Paradise must be like this,” thought Mohammed, and he breathed the fragrant air with delight. But he turned his head neither to the right nor to the left, that no one might observe how wondrously beautiful everything seemed to him, and that he had never before seen any thing so magnificent.
There, under the beautiful tent with the golden tassels, and the gold-glittering star–there, on a couch, reclined a pale, thin boy, and at his side, on a chair richly embroidered, sat Tschorbadji Hassan.
As Mohammed now advanced with elastic step, his head erect, the two looked at him in admiration.
“How splendid he looks!” murmured the pale boy. “That is health, father, and life. He is just my age, and only look at me!”
The tschorbadji suppressed a sigh, and smiled gently as he looked at his son. “You are ill, my Osman. Allah will grant you speedy recovery, and then you will become strong and healthy like Mohammed Ali.–Well!” he cried to the boy who had stood still at some distance with his birds in his hand–“well, I see you have kept your word, and brought my son the wild-pigeons.”
“I have, and am glad that I was able to do so.” replied Mohammed, as he now came nearer in obedience to the bey’s request, and greeted the pale boy with a joyous smile.
“Give me your hand, Mohammed,” said the young boy, who had partially risen from his cushions, and was supporting himself on his elbow. Timidly, Mohammed took the boy’s pale, thin hand in his own.
“Tell me, Mohammed, why do you not come to see me oftener? You know how glad I always am to see you.”
“Master, he did not visit you, because it does not become the poor to intrude upon the rich and noble,” replied Mohammed, his eyes fixed with an anxious expression on Osman’s pale face.
“Rich and noble!” repeated Osman, with a sigh. “You are rich, Mohammed, for you are healthy. You are noble, Mohammed; for the inhabitants of the sea and of the air must obey you. You have power, and that is nobility.”
The tschorbadji was displeased with these humble words of his son, and his brow became clouded.
“I think you should be content with your riches and nobility, my son,” said he. “Come, hand me the pigeons, Mohammed.”
He took the beautifully feathered birds from Mohammed’s hand, looked at them, and let their feathers play in the sun light. “Yes, they are still warm; so the world goes. An hour since they disported themselves in life’s sunshine. The child of man comes, sends a few shot through their bodies, and their glory is at an end. But, I thank you, Mohammed, for having so quickly complied with our wish. Here is your reward.” He took two gold-pieces from his purse and handed them to the boy in his outstretched hand.
Mohammed did not take them. He drew back at the words of the governor, a deep color suffusing itself over his cheeks.
Osman perceived this, and motioned to him to come nearer to his couch. “Mohammed,” said he, “father forgot to add for what purpose he wished to give you the money. Not for yourself. I know that your procuring these pigeons for me was an act of friendship. You have always been friendly to me, and I shall never forget what you did for me the other day.”
“What was it?” asked the tschorbadji, with surprise.
“You know nothing of it, father. I did not mention it to you because I feared it might make you angry,” replied Osman, gently. “I had had myself carried out on the rock. You know I like to rest there, in the sunlight, under the olive-tree that stretches out its limbs over the water. From that point you can look so far out over the sea. There you can see where heaven and earth unite, and strange dreams and wishes overcome over me there. The sea murmurs at my feet in such wondrous, mysterious tones, that my heart warms and my breast expands. The physician, too, had said that I should breathe the fresh air of the cliffs very often, and I had been carried out, and lay there at rest in sweet, solitary silence. I did not observe that the sky was darkening, and a storm coming on. It also escaped the notice of the two servants who had carried me out in the chair. Now that the rain already began to fall in large drops, they became alarmed, and both ran away rapidly to procure a covered palanquin, as the physician had said I must be carefully guarded against taking cold. They had hardly gone and left me alone when it began to rain harder, and I felt the large drops slowly trickling down upon me through the leaves of the olive-tree. The rain was very cold. The storm raged and tore the protecting foliage of the tree apart. Suddenly I heard footsteps. It was Mohammed Ali. He was rapidly passing by, but when he saw me lying there under the tree, alone, he came up to me, and understood the situation at a glance. In spite of my resistance, he spread his body over me, and protected me from the rain and discomfort.
“When the servants arrived with the palanquin I had remained perfectly dry, while Mohammed was wet to the skin. I begged him to come with me. I begged him to accept a gift. He refused both, and cried, laughing, as he ran away to escape my further thanks: ‘For me it was only a welcome bath! You it would have hurt, Osman.'”
“Good, by Allah! That was well done,” said the tschorbadji, with his aristocratic smile. “You served my son as an umbrella. I thank you for it, Mohammed, and will reward you. A new mantle shall be brought you, for I perceive that your own is torn and old.”
“I thank you, master. It is good enough for me. This mantle is an inheritance from my father. Mother preserved it for ten years, and now I wear it, and wear it with pride, as a souvenir of my father. Thanks for your kind offer.”
“Then take the money,” said the tschorbadji. “You see I still hold it in my hand.”
“Thanks, master. I have no need of the money.”
“You must take it, Mohammed,” said Osman, gently. “As I told you before, father has forgotten to add for what purpose he gives it. You are to go and hear the new scha-er, the story-teller. Do you know him already?”
“No, Osman, I do not. What of this scha-er?”
“I have heard him much spoken of,” replied Osman, gently. “He is a rival of the old scha-er; Mehsed. You know the old one always sits in the middle of the market-place, on a stone, and tells the people stories of the olden time, and of the magnificence of the Turkish Empire. Now a new storyteller has come, from Constantinople it is said, and people say his stories are very beautiful. But he does not seat himself on a stone in the middle of the market, but in the wide hall of a store. There he has hired a corner, and there he sits. Around himself, as far as his voice reaches, he has fastened a rope to stakes, and whoever wishes to enter the circle thus formed must pay to hear his stories. I should like to do so, too, and have often entreated my father to allow me, but they say it would excite me too much, and that the air of the hall would be too close for me. Therefore, Mohammed, I beg you to go there for me, listen to the stories, and then come and repeat them to me. You see it was for this purpose father gave you the money.–Is it not so, father?”
“Yes, my boy, it shall be so if you desire it. I give him the money that he may hear the new scha-er, and if it entertains and pleases you. Mohammed shall come to you and relate what he has heard.”
“Will you afford me this pleasure, Mohammed? I am not strong and healthy like you; I cannot climb the rocks, like you; cannot sit on the cliffs and listen to the voice of the sea and the storm; cannot, like you, enjoy the delight of taking exercise in the open air! Here I lie on my bed, and all that is good and beautiful must come to me, if I am to enjoy it. Then come to me, Mohammed Ali!”
With a kindly look, he again held out his pale, attenuated hand, and Mohammed felt that warm tears were trickling down his cheeks, and that somehow he could not speak while the pale handsome boy was looking at him so entreatingly. He took Osman’s hand and pressed heartily in his own.
“I accept the money from Tschorbadji Hassan,” said he, in low, soft tones. “I shall go and listen to the new scha-er, and, if you wish, Osman, I shall come to-morrow, and every day, to relate to you what I have heard; and it will please me if it gives you pleasure.”
“I thank you, Mohammed, and beg you to come to-morrow ready to relate to me.–Give me the money, father,” said he, addressing his father, with a gentle smile. “I will give it to Mohammed for the scha-er.”
He took the money, and Mohammed willingly accepted it from him, and thanked him.
“I will go to the scha-er at once, for this is his hour, I believe.”
He bowed hastily and slightly before the tschorbadji, but profoundly and reverentially before the poor pale boy, and rapidly walked back toward the gate, thinking not of the beautiful flowers that surrounded him, rejoicing only at being able to do something for Osman Bey, and rejoicing, too, at the prospect of listening to the scha-er.
It was just the hour at which the new scha-er, the rival of old Mehsed, began to relate his stories in the hall. With an earnest, respectful air, the men and boys sat around in the wide circle on their mats, and listened, slowly moving their bodies to and fro, to what the scha-er was relating.
Mohammed noiselessly entered the circle, and seating himself as close as he could in front of the scha-er, listened in breathless attention to the loud, resonant voice that told of the glories of the past
“I have not come to tell you of the fatherland to-day, not of Turkish might and grandeur. Your humble servant has been proclaiming to you their wonders for the last few days,” said he. “To-day I have turned my gaze toward distant worlds and kingdoms. I am about to tell you of the provinces converted into parts of our realm by the power of the sultan. Have you heard of the land that lies over there beyond the sea–the land of the Egyptians? Great is the history of this people, and from it we can learn that Allah alone is great, and that, next to him, and next to the prophet, nothing is so great as our emperor and master, our Sultan Selim, at Stamboul, on his imperishable throne. I told you yesterday of the origin of the kingdom of Egypt, and of the struggles carried on by barbarian hordes against each other. I then went on to tell you of the caliphs of Bagdad, how they had ruled in Egypt, and how they, too, were overthrown in their magnificence. Now listen. Egypt was lost to the caliphs of Bagdad; after long struggles their rule was at an end forever. A fortunate soldier, named Tokid, possessed himself of the rich and fertile kingdom that lies beyond the ocean. He held the reins of government with a strong hand, and an army of four hundred thousand men spread themselves over the whole land, like a swarm of hornets and grasshoppers, and held the trembling people in subjection. But he died, and a black slave named Kafour, took the sceptre from the hands of the dying man, and said, ‘He gave it to me as to his successor.’ And the four hundred thousand hornets and grasshoppers repeated these words, and the nation bowed its head and submitted to the rule of this black man.
“But one man bad the courage to defy this slave. He was a descendant of the house of Ali, which could boast of being the house of the great prophet.
“Mahadi Obeidallah was the name of this grandson of Ali. He was strong and mighty before Allah, and he held in his strong hand the green flag of the prophet, of his ancestor, an heir-loom in his family, as he landed from his ships with his troops, at Alexandria, the great city that lies on the shore of Africa, and belongs to the realm of Egypt.
“Nothing could resist the descendant of the prophet, and Mahadi Obeidallah erected his throne in Alexandria. The conquest of Egypt, begun by him, was finished by his grandson, Moez. He brought a hundred thousand men, commanded by his vizier Jauhar, to Alexandria, and marched with them through the desert toward the great city of Fostal, which Caliph Amrou had built.
“Near this great city, Jauhar founded another with splendid walls and palaces, and he called it El-Kahera–that is, the–Victorious.’ Proudly, victoriously, beside the old city of Fostal, arose the new city of El-Kahera, the wondrous city! Moez sat enthroned there in the midst of his realm, and he founded in El-Kahera, the Victorious, the dynasty of the Fatimite caliphs; for Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed, had married Ali, who was the head of the house from which Moez and Jauhar descended.
“The new city, El-Kahera arose quickly, and soon became the model for all that was beautiful in the arts and sciences in Egypt. The haughty Bagdad, once so mighty, sank into the dust before her.
“But the Fatimites were neither wiser nor more fortunate than the Abbassites, of whom I told you yesterday, had been. The people could not love them, for the Fatimites ruled tyrannically, and knew nothing of pity and love; and the religion of the prophet, which teaches that we should love and do good to our fellow-men, they practised with their tongues only, but not in reality. They thought it sufficient to be able to call themselves descendants of the great prophet, without imitating him in his good works.
“At last one of them even dared to proclaim himself the prophet. His