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The Pacha of Many Tales

Frederick Marryat

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Pacha of Many Tales, by Captain Marryat.


  Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848.He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself towriting. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which areamong the very best of English literature, and some of which are stillin print.

  Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in hisstories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, henever knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literarygenius.

  "The Pacha of Many Tales" was published in 1835, the sixth book to flowfrom Marryat's pen. It is designedly reminiscent of "The ArabianNights". Marryat has let his genius for inventing delightful littlestories and episodes run riot in this unusual book.

  This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformattedin 2003, and again in 2005.




  Every one acquainted with the manners and customs of the East must beaware that there is no situation of eminence more unstable, or moredangerous to its possessor, than that of a pacha. Nothing, perhaps,affords us more convincing proof of the risk which men will incur, toobtain a temporary authority over their fellow-creatures, than theavidity with which this office is accepted from the sultan who, withinthe memory of the new occupant, has consigned scores of his predecessorsto the bow-string. It would almost appear, as if the despot butelevated a head from the crowd, that he might obtain a more fair anduninterrupted sweep for his scimitar, when he cut it off; only exceededin his peculiar taste by the king of Dahomy, who is said to ornament thesteps of his palace with heads, fresh severed, each returning sun, as werenew the decoration of our apartments from our gay parterres. I makethese observations, that I may not be accused of a disregard tochronology, in not precisely stating the year, or rather the months,during which flourished one of a race, who, like the flowers of thecistus, one morning in all their splendour, on the next, are strewedlifeless on the ground to make room for their successors. Speaking ofsuch ephemeral creations, it will be quite sufficient to say, "There_was_ a Pacha."

  Would you inquire by what means he was raised to the distinction? It isan idle question. In this world, pre-eminence over your fellowcreatures can only be obtained, by leaving others far behind in thecareer of virtue or of vice. In compliance with the dispositions ofthose who rule, faithful service in the one path or the other willshower honour upon the subject, and by the breath of kings he becomesennobled to look down upon his former equals.

  And as the world spins round, the _why_ is of little moment. Thehonours are bequeathed, but not the good, or the evil deeds, or thetalents by which they were obtained. In the latter we have but a lifeinterest, for the entail is cut off by death. Aristocracy in all itsvarieties is as necessary for the well binding of society, as the diversgrades between the general and the common soldier are essential in thefield. Never then inquire, why this or that man has been raised abovehis fellows; but, each night as you retire to bed, thank Heaven that youare not _a King_.

  And if I may digress, there is one badge of honour in our country, whichI never contemplate without serious reflection rising in my mind. It isthe _bloody_ hand in the dexter chief of a baronet,--now often worn, Igrant, by those who, perhaps, during their whole lives have never raisedtheir hands in anger. But my thoughts have returned to days of yore--the iron days of _ironed men_, when it _was_ the symbol of faithfulservice in the field--when it really was bestowed upon the "hand embruedin blood;" and I have meditated, whether that hand, displayed withexultation in this world, may not be held up trembling in the next--injudgment against itself.

  And I, whose memory stepping from one legal murder to another, can walkdry-footed over the broad space of five-and-twenty years of time,--butthe "damned spots" won't come out--so I'll put my hands in my pocketsand walk on.

  Conscience, fortunately or unfortunately, I hardly can tell which,permits us to form political and religious creeds, most suited todisguise or palliate our sins. Mine is a military conscience; and Iagree with Bates and Williams, who flourished in the time of Henry theFifth, that it is "all upon the king:" that is to say, it _was_ all uponthe king; but now our constitution has become so incomparably perfect,that "the king can do no wrong;" and he has no difficulty in findingministers, who voluntarily impignorating themselves for all his actionsin this world, will, in all probability, not escape from the clutches ofthe great _Pawnbroker_ in the next--from which facts I draw thefollowing conclusions:--

  First. That his majesty (God bless him!) will go to heaven.

  Secondly. That his majesty's ministers will all go to the devil.

  Thirdly. That I shall go on with my story.

  As, however, a knowledge of the previous history of our pacha will benecessary to the development of our story, the reader will in thisinstance be indulged. He had been brought up to the profession of abarber; but, possessing great personal courage, he headed a popularcommotion in favour of his predecessor, and was rewarded by a post ofsome importance in the army. Successful in detached service, while hisgeneral was unfortunate in the field, he was instructed to take off thehead of his commander, and head the troops in his stead; both of whichservices he performed with equal skill and celerity. Success attendedhim, and the pacha, his predecessor, having in his opinion, as well asin that of the sultan, remained an unusual time in office, by anaccusation enforced by a thousand purses of gold, he was enabled toproduce a bowstring for his benefactor; and the sultan's "firmaun"appointed him to the vacant pachalik. His qualifications for officewere all superlative: he was very short, very corpulent, veryilliterate, very irascible, and very stupid.

  On the morning after his investment, he was under the hands of hisbarber, a shrewd intelligent Greek, Mustapha by name. Barbers areprivileged persons for many reasons: running from one employer toanother to obtain their livelihood, they also obtain matter forconversation, which, impertinent as it may sometimes be, serves tobeguile the tedium of an operation which precludes the use of any organexcept the ear. Moreover, we are inclined to be on good terms with aman, who has it in his power to cut our throats whenever he pleases--towind up; the personal liberties arising from his profession, render allothers trifling; for the man who takes his sovereign by the nose, cannotwell after that be denied the liberty of speech.

  Mustapha was a Greek by birth, and inherited all the intelligence andadroitness of his race. He had been brought up to his profession when aslave; but at the age of nineteen he accompanied his master on board ofa merchant vessel bound to Scio; this vessel was taken by a pirate, andDemetrius (for such was his real name) joined this band of miscreants,and very faithfully served his apprenticeship to cutting throats, untilthe vessel was captured by an English frigate. Being an active,intelligent person, he was, at his own request, allowed to remain onboard as one of the ship's company, assisted in several actions, andafter three years went to England, where the ship was paid off. Forsome time, Demetrius tried to make his fortune, but without success, andit was not until he was reduced to nearly his last shilling, that hecommenced the trade of hawking rhubarb about in a box: which speculationturned so profitable, that he was enabled in a short time to take hispassage in a vessel bound to Smyrna, his own country. This vessel wascaptured by a French privateer; he was landed, and, not being consideredas a prisoner, allowed to act as he thought proper. In a short time heobtained the situation of
valet and barber to a "millionaire," whom hecontrived to rob of a few hundred Napoleons, and with them to make hisescape to his own country. Demetrius had now some knowledge of theworld, and he felt it necessary that he should become a True Believer,as there would be more chance of his advancement in a Turkish country.He dismissed the patriarch to the devil, and took up the turban andMahomet; then quitting the scene of his apostacy, recommenced hisprofession of barber in the territory of the pacha; whose good-will hehad obtained previous to the latter's advancement to the pachalik.

  "Mustapha," observed the pacha, "thou knowest that I have taken off theheads of all those who left their slippers at the door of the latepacha."

  "Allah Kebur! God is most powerful! So perish the enemies of yoursublime highness. Were they not the sons of Shitan?" replied Mustapha.

  "Very true; but, Mustapha, the consequence is that I am in want of avizier; and whom do I know equal to that office?"

  "While your sublime highness is pacha, is not a child equal to theoffice? Who stumbles, when guided by unerring wisdom?"

  "I know that very well," replied the pacha; "but if I am always todirect him, I might as well be vizier myself; besides, I shall have noone to blame, if affairs go wrong with the sultan. Inshallah! pleasethe Lord, the vizier's head may sometimes save my own."

  "Are we not as dogs before you?" replied Mustapha: "happy the man, whoby offering his own head may preserve that of your sublime highness! Itought to be the proudest day of his life."

  "At all events it would be the last," rejoined the pacha.

  "May it please your sublime highness," observed Mustapha, after a pause,"if your slave may be so honoured as to speak in your presence, a viziershould be a person of great tact; he should be able to draw the line asnicely as I do when I shave your sublime head, leaving not a vestige ofthe hair, yet entering not upon the skin."

  "Very true, Mustapha."

  "He should have a sharp eye for the disaffected to the government,selecting them and removing them from among the crowd, as I do the fewwhite hairs which presume to make their appearance in your sublime andmagnificent beard."

  "Very true, Mustapha."

  "He should carefully remove all impurities from the state, as I havethis morning from your sublime ears."

  "Very true, Mustapha."

  "He should be well acquainted with the secret springs of action, as Ihave proved myself to be in the shampooing which your sublime highnesshas just received."

  "Very true, Mustapha."

  "Moreover, he should be ever grateful to your highness for thedistinguished honour conferred upon him."

  "All that you say is very true, Mustapha, but where am I to meet withsuch a man?"

  "This world is convenient in some points," continued Mustapha; "if youwant either a fool or a knave, you have not far to go to find them; butit is no easy task to select the person you require. I know but one."

  "And who is he?"

  "One whose head is but as your footstool," answered the barber,prostrating himself,--"your sublime highness's most devoted slave,Mustapha."

  "Holy Prophet! Then you mean yourself!--Well, now I think of it, if onebarber can become a pacha, I do not see why another would not make avizier. But then what am I to do for a barber? No, no, Mustapha; agood vizier is easy to be found, but a good barber, you know as well asI do, requires some talent."

  "Your slave is aware of that," replied Mustapha, "but he has travelledin other countries, where it is no uncommon circumstance for men to holdmore than one office under government; sometimes much more incompatiblethan those of barber and vizier, which are indeed closely connected.The affairs of most nations are settled by the potentates during theirtoilet. While I am shaving the head of your sublime highness, I canreceive your commands to take off the heads of others; and you can haveyour person and your state both put in order at the same moment."

  "Very true, Mustapha; then, on condition that you continue your officeof barber, I have no objection to throw that of vizier into thebargain."

  Mustapha again prostrated himself, with his tweezers in his hand. Hethen rose, and continued his office.

  "You can write, Mustapha," observed the pacha, after a short silence.

  "Min Allah! God forbid that I should acknowledge it, or I shouldconsider myself as unfit to assume the office in which your sublimehighness has invested me."

  "Although unnecessary for me, I thought it might be requisite for avizier," observed the pacha.

  "Reading may be necessary, I will allow," replied Mustapha; "but I trustI can soon prove to your highness that writing is as dangerous as it isuseless. More men have been ruined by that unfortunate acquirement,than by any other; and dangerous as it is to all, it is still moredangerous to men in high power. For instance, your sublime highnesssends a message in writing, which is ill-received, and it is producedagainst you; but had it been a verbal message, you could deny it, andbastinado to death the Tartar who carried it, as a proof of yoursincerity."

  "Very true, Mustapha."

  "The grandfather of your slave," continued the barber-vizier, "held thesituation of receiver-general at the custom-house; and he was always ina fury when he was obliged to take up the pen. It was his creed, thatno government could prosper when writing was in general use. `Observe,Mustapha,' said he to me one day, `here is the curse of writing,--forall the money which is paid in, I am obliged to give a receipt. What isthe consequence? that government loses many thousand sequins every year;for when I apply to them for a second payment, they produce theirreceipt. Now if it had not been for this cursed invention of writing,Inshallah! they should have paid twice, if not thrice over. Remember,Mustapha,' continued he, `that reading and writing only clog the wheelsof government.'"

  "Very true, Mustapha," observed the pacha, "then we will have nowriting."

  "Yes, your sublime highness, every thing in writing from others, butnothing in writing from ourselves. I have a young Greek slave, who canbe employed in these matters. He reads well. I have lately employedhim in reading to me the stories of `Thousand and one Nights.'"

  "Stories," cried the pacha; "what are they about? I never heard ofthem; I'm very fond of stories."

  "If it would pleasure your sublime highness to hear these stories read,the slave will wait your commands," replied the vizier.

  "Bring him this evening, Mustapha; we will smoke a pipe, and listen tothem; I'm very fond of stories--they always send me to sleep."

  The business of the day was transacted with admirable precision anddespatch by the two quondam barbers, who proved how easy it is togovern, where there are not "three estates" to confuse people. They satin the divan as highwaymen loiter on the road, and it was "Your money oryour life" to all who made their appearance.

  At the usual hour the court broke up, the guards retired, the money wascarried to the treasury, the executioner wiped his sword, and the livesof the pacha's subjects were considered to be in a state of comparativesecurity, until the affairs of the country were again brought undertheir cognisance on the ensuing day.

  In obedience to the wish expressed by the pacha, Mustapha made hisappearance in the afternoon with the young Greek slave. The new vizierhaving taken a seat upon a cushion at the feet of the pacha, the pipeswere lighted, and the slave was directed to proceed.

  The Greek had arrived to the end of the First Night, in whichSchezehezerade commences her story, and the Sultan, who was anxious tohear the termination of it, defers her execution to the following day.

  "Stop," cried the pacha, taking the pipe from his lips; "how long beforethe break of day did that girl call her sister?"

  "About half an hour, your sublime highness."

  "Wallah! Is that all she could tell of her story in half an hour?--There's not a woman in my harem who would not say as much in fiveminutes."

  The pacha was so amused with the stories, that he never once feltinclined to sleep; on the contrary, the Greek slave was compelled toread every afternoon, until his legs were
so tired that he could hardlystand, and his tongue almost refused its office; consequently, they weresoon finished; and Mustapha not being able to procure any more, theywere read a second time. After which the pacha, who felt the loss ofhis evening's amusement, became first puzzled how to pass away his time;then he changed to hypochondriacism, and finally became so irritable,that even Mustapha himself, at times, approached him with some degree ofawe.

  "I have been thinking," observed the pacha, one morning, when under thehands of Mustapha, in his original capacity, "that it would be as easyfor me to have stories told me, as the caliph in the Arabian Nights."

  "I wonder not that your highness should desire it. Those stories are asthe opium to Theriarkis, filling the soul with visions of delight at themoment, but leaving it palsied from over-excitement, when their effecthas passed away. How does your sublime highness propose to obtain yourend; and in what manner can your slave assist to produce your wishes?"

  "I shall manage it without assistance; come this evening and you shallsee, Mustapha."

  Mustapha made his appearance in the afternoon, and the pacha smoked hispipe for some time, and appeared as if communing with himself; he thenlaid it down, and clapping his hands, desired one of the slaves toinform his favourite lady, Zeinab, that he desired her presence.

  Zeinab entered with her veil down. "Your slave attends the pleasure ofher lord."

  "Zeinab," said the pacha, "do you love me?"

  "Do not I worship the dust that my lord treads on?"

  "Very true--then I have a favour to request: observe, Zeinab--it is mywish that,"--(here the pacha took a few whiffs from his pipe)--"The factis--I wish you to dishonour my harem as soon as possible."

  "Wallah sel Nebi!!--By Allah and the Prophet your highness is in a merryhumour this evening," replied Zeinab, turning round to quit theapartment.

  "On the contrary, I am in a serious humour; I mean what I have said; andI expect that you will comply with my wishes."

  "Is my lord mad? or has he indulged too freely in the juice of the grapeforbidden by our Prophet? Allah kebur! God is most powerful--The hakimmust be sent for."

  "Will you do as I order you?" said the pacha angrily.

  "Does my lord send for his slave to insult her! My blood is as water,at the dreadful thought!--Dishonour the harem!--Min Allah! Godforbid!--Would not the eunuch be ready and the sack?"

  "Yes, they would, I acknowledge; but still it must be done."

  "It shall not be done," replied the lady:--"Has my lord been visited byHeaven? or is he possessed by the Shitan?"--And the lady burst intotears of rage and vexation as she quitted the apartment.

  "There's obstinacy for you--women are nothing but opposition. If youwish them to be faithful, they try day and night to deceive you; givethem their desires and tell them to be false, they will refuse. All wasarranged so well, I should have cut off all their heads, and had a freshwife every night until I found one who could tell stories; then I shouldhave rose up and deferred her execution to the following day."

  Mustapha, who had been laughing in his sleeve at the strange idea of thepacha, was nevertheless not a little alarmed. He perceived that themania had such complete possession, that, unless appeased, the resultsmight prove unpleasant even to himself. It occurred to him, that acourse might be pursued to gratify the pacha's wishes, withoutproceeding to such violent measures. Waiting a little while until thecolour, which had suffused the pacha's face from anger anddisappointment, had subsided, he addressed him:--

  "The plan of your sublime highness was such as was to be expected fromthe immensity of your wisdom; but hath not the Prophet warned us, thatthe wisest of men are too often thwarted by the folly and obstinacy ofthe other sex? May your slave venture to observe, that many very finestories were obtained by the caliph Haroun, and his vizier Mesrour, asthey walked through the city in disguise. In all probability a similarresult might be produced, if your highness were to take the same step,accompanied by the lowest of your slaves, Mustapha."

  "Very true," replied the pacha, delighted at the prospect, "prepare twodisguises, and we will set off in less than an hour--Inshallah, pleasethe Lord, we have at last hit upon the right path."

  Mustapha, who was glad to direct the ideas of the pacha into a moreharmless channel, procured the dresses of two merchants (for such, heobserved, were the usual habiliments put on by the caliph and his vizierin the Arabian Nights), and he was aware that his master's vanity wouldbe gratified at the idea of imitating so celebrated a personage.

  It was dusk when they set off upon their adventures. Mustapha directedsome slaves well armed to follow at a distance, in case their assistancemight be required. The strict orders which had been issued on theaccession of the new pacha (to prevent any riot or popular commotion),which were enforced by constant rounds of the soldiers on guard,occasioned the streets to be quite deserted.

  For some time the pacha and Mustapha walked up one street and downanother, without meeting with any thing or any body that couldadminister to their wishes. The former, who had not lately beenaccustomed to pedestrian exercise, began to puff and show symptoms ofweariness and disappointment, when at the corner of a street they fellin with two men, who were seated in conversation; and as they approachedsoftly, one of them said to the other, "I tell you, Coja, that happy isthe man who can always command a hard crust like this, which is nowwearing away my teeth."

  "I must know the reason of that remark," said the pacha; "Mesrour(Mustapha, I mean), you will bring that man to me to-morrow, after thedivan is closed."

  Mustapha bowed in acquiescence, and directing the slaves who were inattendance to take the man into custody, followed the pacha, who,fatigued with his unusual excursion, and satisfied with the prospect ofsuccess, now directed his steps to the palace and retired to bed.Zeinab, who had laid awake until her eyes could remain open no longer,with the intention of reading him a lecture upon decency and sobriety,had at last fallen asleep, and the tired pacha was therefore permittedto do the same.

  When Mustapha arrived at his own abode, he desired that the person whohad been detained should be brought to him.

  "My good man," said the vizier, "you made an observation this eveningwhich was overheard by his highness the pacha, who wishes to beacquainted with your reasons for stating `that happy was the man whocould at all times command a hard crust, like that which was wearingaway your teeth.'"

  The man fell down on his knees in trepidation. "I do declare to yourhighness, by the camel of the Holy Prophet," said he, in a falteringvoice, "that I neither meant treason, nor disaffection to thegovernment."

  "Slave! I am not quite sure of that," replied Mustapha, with a sternlook, in hopes of frightening the man into a compliance with hiswishes--"there was something very enigmatical in those words. Your`_hard crust_' may mean his sublime highness the pacha; `wearing awayyour teeth' may imply exactions from the government and as you affirmedthat he was happy who could _command_ the hard crust--why it is as muchas to say that you would be very glad to create a rebellion."

  "Holy Prophet! May the soul of your slave never enter the firstheaven," replied the man, "if he meant any thing more than what he said;and if your highness had been as often without a mouthful of bread asyour slave has been, you would agree with him in the justice of theremark."

  "It is of little consequence whether I agree with you or not," repliedthe vizier; "I have only to tell you that his sublime highness the pachawill not be satisfied, unless you explain away the remark, by relatingto him some story connected with the observation."

  "Min Allah! God forbid that your slave should tell a story to deceivehis highness."

  "The Lord have mercy upon you if you do not," replied the vizier; "but,to be brief; if you can invent a good and interesting story, you willremove the suspicions of the pacha, and probably be rewarded with a fewpieces of gold; if you cannot, you must prepare for the bastinado, ifnot for death. You will not be required to appear in the sublimepresence before to-morrow after
noon, and will therefore have plenty oftime to invent one."

  "Will your highness permit your slave to go home and consult his wife?Women have a great talent for story telling. With her assistance he maybe able to comply with your injunctions."

  "No," replied Mustapha, "you must remain in custody; but, as on thisoccasion she may be of the greatest assistance to you, you may send forher. They have indeed a talent! As the young crocodile, from instinct,runs into the Nile as soon as it bursts its shell, so does woman, fromher nature, plunge into deceit, before even her tongue can giveutterance to the lies which her fertile imagination has alreadyconceived."

  And with this handsome compliment to the sex, Mustapha gave his finalorders, and retired.

  Whether the unfortunate man, thus accused of treason, derived anybenefit from being permitted to "retain counsel," will be shown by thefollowing story, which he told to the pacha when summoned on the ensuingday:--


  That your highness should wish for an explanation of the very doubtfullanguage which you overheard last night, I am not surprised; but I trustyou will acknowledge, when I have finished my narrative, that I wasfully justified in the expressions which I made use of. I am by birth(as my dress denotes) a fellah of this country, but I was not always sopoor as I am now. My father was the possessor of many camels, which helet out for hire to the merchants of the different caravans whichannually leave this city. When he died, I came into possession of hisproperty, and the good-will of those whom he had most faithfully served.The consequence was, that I had full employ, my camels were alwaysengaged; and, as I invariably accompanied them that they might not beill-treated, I have several times been to Mecca, as this ragged greenturban will testify. My life was one of alternate difficulty andenjoyment. I returned to my wife and children with delight after myjourneys of suffering and privation, and fully appreciated the value ofmy home from the short time that my occupation would permit me to remainthere. I worked hard, and became rich.

  It was during a painful march through the desert with one of thecaravans, that a favourite she-camel foaled. At first it was myintention to leave the young one to its fate, as my camels had alreadysuffered much; but, on examination, the creature showed such strengthand symmetry that I resolved to bring it up. I therefore divided halfof one of the loads between the other camels, and tied the foal upon theone which I had partly relieved for the purpose. We arrived safely atCairo; and, as the little animal grew up, I had more than ever reason tobe satisfied that I had saved its life. All good judges considered it aprodigy of beauty and strength; and prophesied that it would some day beselected as the holy camel to carry the Koran in the pilgrimage toMecca. And so it did happen about five years afterwards, during whichinterval I accompanied the caravans as before; and each year added to mywealth.

  My camel had by this time arrived to his full perfection; he stoodnearly three feet higher than any other; and, when the caravan waspreparing, I led him to the sheiks, and offered him as a candidate forthe honour. They would have accepted him immediately, had it not beenfor a maribout, who, for some reason or another, desired them not toemploy him, asserting that the caravan would be unlucky if my camel wasthe bearer of the holy Koran.

  As this man was considered to be a prophet, the sheiks were afraid, andwould not give a decided answer. Irritated at the maribout'sinterference, I reviled him; he raised a hue and cry against me; and,being joined by the populace, I was nearly killed. As I hastened away,the wretch threw some sand after me, crying out, "Thus shall the caravanperish from the judgment of heaven, if that cursed camel is permitted tocarry the holy word of the Prophet." The consequence was, that aninferior camel was selected, and I was disappointed. But on the ensuingyear the maribout was not at Cairo; and, as there was no animal equal tomine in beauty, it was chosen by the sheiks without a dissentient voice.

  I hastened home to my wife, overjoyed with my good fortune, which Ihoped would bring a blessing upon my house. She was equally delighted,and my beautiful camel seemed also to be aware of the honour to which hewas destined, as he repaid our caresses, curving and twisting his longneck, and laying his head upon our shoulders.

  The caravan assembled: it was one of the largest which for many yearshad quitted Cairo, amounting in all to eighteen thousand camels. Youmay imagine my pride when, as the procession passed through the streets,I pointed out to my wife the splendid animal, with his bridle studdedwith jewels and gold, led by the holy sheiks in their green robes,carrying on his back the chest which contained the law of our prophet,looking proudly on each side of him as he walked along, accompanied bybands of music, and the loud chorus of the singing men and women.

  As on the ensuing day the caravan was to form outside of the town, Ireturned home to my family, that I might have the last of their company,having left my other camels, who were hired by the pilgrims, in chargeof an assistant who accompanied me in my journeys. The next morning Ibade adieu to my wife and children; and was quitting the house, when myyoungest child, who was about two years old, called to me, and begged meto return one moment, and give her a farewell caress. As I lifted herin my arms, she, as usual, put her hand into the pocket of my loosejacket to search, as I thought, for the fruit that I usually broughthome for her when I returned from the bazaar; but there was none there:and having replaced her in the arms of her mother, I hastened away thatI might not be too late at my post. Your highness is aware that we donot march one following another, as most caravans do, but in onestraight line abreast. The necessary arrangement occupies the whole dayprevious to the commencement of our journey, which takes placeimmediately after the sun goes down. We set off that evening; and aftera march of two nights, arrived at Adjeroid, where we remained threedays, to procure our supplies of water from Suez, and to refresh theanimals, previous to our forced march over the desert of El Tyh.

  The last day of our repose, as I was smoking my pipe, with my camelskneeling down around me, I perceived a herie [a swift dromedary] comingfrom the direction of Cairo, at a very swift pace; it passed by me likea flash of lightning, but still I had sufficient time to recognise inits rider the maribout who had prophesied evil if my camel was employedto carry the Koran on the pilgrimage of the year before.

  The maribout stopped his dromedary at the tent of the emir Hadjy, whocommanded the caravan. Anxious to know the reason of his following us,which I had a foreboding was connected with my camel, I hastened to thespot. I found him haranguing the emir and the people who had surroundedhim, denouncing woe and death to the whole caravan if my camel was notimmediately destroyed, and another selected in his stead. Having forsome time declaimed in such an energetic manner as to spreadconsternation throughout the camp, he turned his dromedary again to thewest, and in a few minutes was out of sight.

  The emir was confused; murmurings and consultations were arising amongthe crowd. I was afraid that they would listen to the suggestions ofthe maribout; and, alarmed for my camel, and the loss of the honourconferred upon him, I was guilty of a lie.

  "O! emir," said I, "listen not to that man who is mine enemy: he came tomy house, he ate of my bread, and would have been guilty of the basestingratitude by seducing the mother of my children; I drove him from mydoor, and thus would he revenge himself. So may it fare with me, andwith the caravan, as I speak the truth."

  I was believed; the injunctions of the maribout were disregarded, andthat night we proceeded on our march through the plains of El Tyh.

  As your highness has never yet made a pilgrimage, you can have noconception of the country which we had to pass through: it was one vastregion of sand, where the tracks of those who pass over it areobliterated by the wind,--a vast sea without water,--an expanse ofdesolation. We plunged into the desert; and as the enormous collectionof animals, extending as far as the eye could reach, held theirnoiseless way, it seemed as if it were the passing by of shadows.

  We met with no accident, notwithstanding the prophecies of the maribout;and, after
a fatiguing march of seven nights, arrived safely at Nakhel,where we replenished our exhausted water-skins. Those whom I knew jokedwith me, when we met at the wells, at the false prophecies of my enemy.We had now three days of severe fatigue to encounter before we arrivedat the castle of Akaba, and we recommenced our painful journey.

  It was on the morning of the second day, about an hour after we hadpitched our tents, that the fatal prophecy of the maribout, and thejudgment of Allah upon me, for the lie which I had called on him towitness, was fulfilled.

  A dark cloud appeared upon the horizon; it gradually increased, changingto a bright yellow; then rose and rose until it had covered one half ofthe firmament, when it suddenly burst upon us in a hurricane whichcarried every thing before it, cutting off mountains of sand at thebase, and hurling them upon our devoted heads. The splendid tent of theemir, which first submitted to the blast, passed close to me, flyingalong with the velocity of the herie, while every other was eitherlevelled to the ground or carried up into the air, and whirled about inmad gyration.

  Moving pillars of sand passed over us, overthrowing and suffocating manand beast; the camels thrust their muzzles into the ground, and,profiting by their instinct, we did the same, awaiting our fate insilence and trepidation. But the simoom had not yet poured upon us allits horrors: in a few minutes nothing was to be distinguished--all wasdarkness, horrible darkness, rendered more horrible by the ravings ofdying men, the screams of women, and the mad career of horses and otheranimals, which breaking their cords, trod down thousands in theirendeavours to escape from the overwhelming fury of the desert storm.

  I had laid myself down by one of my camels, and thrusting my head underhis side, awaited my death with all the horror of one who felt that thewrath of heaven was justly poured upon him. For an hour I remained inthat position, and surely there can be no pains in hell greater thanthose which I suffered during that space of time. The burning sandforced itself into my garments, the pores of any skin were closed, Ihardly ventured to breathe the hot blast which was offered as the onlymeans of protracted existence. At last I fetched my respiration withgreater freedom, and no more heard the howling of the blast. GraduallyI lifted up my head, but my eyes had lost their power, I coulddistinguish nothing but a yellow glare. I imagined that I was blind,and what chance could there be for a man who was blind in the desert ofEl Tyh? Again I laid my head down, thought of my wife and children, andabandoning myself to despair, I wept bitterly.

  The tears that I shed had a resuscitating effect upon my frame. I feltrevived, and again lifted up my head--I could see! I prostrated myselfin humble thanksgiving to Allah, and then rose upon my feet. Yes, Icould see; but what a sight was presented to my eyes! I could haveclosed them for ever with thankfulness. The sky was again serene, andthe boundless prospect uninterrupted as before; but the thousands whoaccompanied me, the splendid gathering of men and beast, where werethey? Where was the emir Hadjy and his guards? where the mamelukes, theagas, the janissaries, and the holy sheiks? the sacred camel, thesingers, and musicians? the varieties of nations and tribes who hadjoined the caravan? All perished!! Mountains of sand marked the spotswhere they had been entombed, with no other monuments save here andthere part of the body of a man or beast not yet covered by the desertwave. All, all were gone, save one and that one, that guilty one, wasmyself, who had been permitted to exist, that he might behold the awfulmischief which had been created by his presumption and his crime.

  For some minutes I contemplated the scene, careless and despairing; forI imagined that I had only been permitted to outlive the whole, that mydeath might be even more terrible. But my wife and children rushed tomy memory, and I resolved for their sakes to save, if possible a lifewhich had no other ties to bind it to this earth. I tore off a piece ofmy turban, and cleansing the sand out of my bleeding nostrils, walkedover the field of death.

  Between the different hillocks I found several camels which had not beencovered. Perceiving a water skin, I rushed to it, that I might quenchmy raging thirst; but the contents had been dried up--not a dropremained. I found another, but I had no better success. I thendetermined to open one of the bodies of the camels, and obtain the waterwhich it might still have remaining in its stomach. This I effected,and having quenched my thirst--to which even the heated element which Ipoured down, seemed delicious--I hastened to open the remainder of theanimals before putrefaction should take place, and collect the scantysupplies in the water-skins. I procured more than half a skin of water,and then returned to my own camel, which I had laid down beside of,during the simoom. I sat on the body of the animal, and reflected uponthe best method of proceeding. I knew that I was but one day's journeyfrom the springs; but how little chance had I of reaching them! I alsoknew the direction which I must take. The day had nearly closed, and Iresolved to make the attempt.

  As the sun disappeared, I rose, and with the skin of water on my backproceeded on my hopeless journey. I walked the whole of that night,and, by break of day, I imagined that I must have made about half theprogress of a caravan; I had, therefore, still a day to pass in thedesert, without any protection from the consuming heat, and then anothernight of toil. Although I had sufficient water, I had no food. Whenthe sun rose, I sat down upon a hillock of burning sand, to be exposedto his rays for twelve everlasting hours. Before the hour of noonarrived, my brain became heated--I nearly lost my reason. My vision wasimperfect, or rather I saw what did not exist. At one time lakes ofwater presented themselves to my eager eyes; and so certain was I oftheir existence, that I rose and staggered till I was exhausted inpursuit of them. At another, I beheld trees at a distance, and couldsee the acacias waving in the breeze; I hastened to throw myself undertheir shade, and arrived at some small shrub, which had thus beenmagnified.

  So was I tormented and deceived during the whole of that dreadful day,which still haunts me in my dreams. At last the night closed in, andthe stars as they lighted up warned me that I might continue my journey.I drank plentifully from my water-skin, and recommenced my solitaryway. I followed the track marked out by the bones of camels and horsesof former caravans which had perished in the desert, and when the daydawned, I perceived the castle of Akaba at a short distance. Inspiredwith new life, I threw away the water-skin, redoubled my speed, and inhalf an hour had thrown myself down by the side of the fountain fromwhich I had previously imbibed large draughts of the refreshing fluid.What happiness was then mine! How heavenly, to lay under the shade,breathing the cool air, listening to the warbling of the birds, andinhaling the perfume of the flowers, which luxuriated on that delightfulspot! After an hour I stripped, bathed myself, and, taking anotherdraught of water, fell into a sound sleep.

  I awoke refreshed, but suffering under the cravings of hunger, which nowassailed me. I had been three days without food; but hitherto I had notfelt the want of it, as my more importunate thirst had overcome thesensation. Now that the greater evil had been removed, the lesserincreased and became hourly more imperious. I walked out and scannedthe horizon with the hopes of some caravan appearing in sight, but Iwatched in vain; and returned to the fountain. Two more days passedaway, and no relief was at hand: my strength failed me; I felt that Iwas dying; and, as the fountain murmured, and the birds sang, and thecool breeze fanned my cheeks, I thought that it would have been betterto have been swallowed up in the desert than to be tantalised byexpiring in such a paradise. I laid myself down to die, for I could situp no more; and as I turned round to take a last view of the runningwater, which had prolonged my existence, something hard pressed againstmy side. I thought it was a stone, and stretched out my hand to removeit, that I might be at ease in my last moments; but when I felt, therewas no stone there it was something in the pocket of my jacket. I putmy hand in, unconscious what it could be; I pulled it out, and lookingat it before I threw it away, found that it was a piece of _hard drybread_. I thought that it had been sent to me from heaven, and it wasas pure an offering as if it had come from thence, for it wa
s the giftof innocence and affection--it was the piece of bread which my littledarling girl had received for her breakfast, and which on my departureshe had thrust into my pocket, when I imagined she had been searchingfor fruit. I crawled to the spring, moistened it, and devoured it withtears of gratitude to heaven, mingled with the fond yearnings of afather's heart.

  It saved my life; for the next day a small caravan arrived, which wasbound to Cairo. The merchants treated me with great kindness, tied meon one of the camels, and I once more embraced my family, whom I hadnever thought to see again. Since that I have been poor, butcontented--I deserved to lose all my property for my wickedness; and Isubmit with resignation to the will of Allah.

  And now I trust that your highness will acknowledge that I was justifiedin making use of the expression, that "Happy was the man who could at_all times_ command a _crust of bread_!"


  "Very true," observed the pacha; "that's not a bad story: Mustapha, givehim five pieces of gold, and allow him to depart."

  The camel-driver quitted the divan, prostrating himself before thepacha, and overjoyed at the fortunate termination of what had threatenedso much danger. The pacha was silent for a little while, during whichhe puffed his pipe--when he observed:--

  "Allah kebur, God is most powerful! That man has suffered much--andwhat has he to show for it?--a green turban.--He is a hadjy; I neverthought that we should have heard so good a story about a `crust ofbread.' His description of the simoom parched up my entrails. Whatthink you, Mustapha, cannot a true believer go to Heaven without a visitto the tomb of the Prophet?"

  "The holy Koran does not say otherwise, your highness, it inculcatesthat all who can, should do so, as the path will be rendered easier.Min Allah! God forbid! Has your highness ever had the time to go toMecca, and is not your highness to go to Heaven?"

  "Very true, Mustapha, I never had time. In my youth I was busy shavingheads: after that, Wallah! I had enough to do, splitting them; and nowam not I fully occupied in taking them off? Is it not so, Mustapha; arenot these the words of truth?"

  "Your highness is all wisdom. There is but one God, and Mahomet is hisprophet; and when the latter said, that a visit to the holy shrine wouldbe a passport to heaven, it was intended to employ those who were idle,not to embarrass true believers who work hard in the name of the MostHigh!"

  "Min Allah! God forbid! the case is clear," replied the pacha, "why, ifevery body were to go to Mecca what then, Mustapha?"

  "Your highness--it is the opinion of your slave, if such were to takeplace, that all the fools would have left the country."

  "Very true, Mustapha; but my mouth is parched up with the sand of thatsimoom--sherbet I cannot drink, rakee I must not, the hakim has forbidit; what must it be then, Mustapha?"

  "Hath the holy Prophet forbidden wine to true believers in case ofsickness; is not your highness sick; was the wine of Shiraz given byAllah to be thrown away? Allah karim! God is most merciful; and thewine was sent that true believers might, in this world, have a foretasteof the pleasures awaiting them in the next."

  "Mustapha," replied the pacha taking his pipe out of his mouth, "by thebeard of the holy Prophet, your words are those of wisdom. Is a pachato be fed on water-melons? Staffir Allah! do we believe the less,because we drink the wine? Slave, bring the pitcher. There is but oneGod, and Mahomet is his prophet."

  "The words of the Prophet, your highness, are plain he says. `Truebelievers drink no wine,' which means, that his followers are not to goabout the streets, drunken like the Giaours of Franguistan, who comehere in their ships. Why is wine forbidden? because it makes men drunk.If then we are not drunk, we keep within the law. Why was the lawmade? Laws cannot be made for all; they must therefore be made for thecontrol of the majority--Is it not so? Who are the majority? Why thepoor. If laws were made for the rich and powerful, such laws would notsuit the community at large. Mashallah! there are no laws for pachas,who have only to believe that there is one God and Mahomet is hisprophet. Does your slave say well?"

  "Excellently well, Mustapha," replied the pacha, lifting the pitcher tohis mouth for a minute, and then passing it to Mustapha. "Allah karim!God is most merciful! your slave must drink; is it not the pleasure ofyour highness? As the wine poured down the throat of your highness,pervades through your whole frame to the extremities, so does your slaveparticipate in your bounty. Do I not sit in your sublime presence? Canthe sun shine without throwing out heat; therefore if your highnessdrink, must not I drink? Allah acbar! who shall presume not to followthe steps of the pacha?" So saying, Mustapha lifted up the pitcher, andfor a minute, it was glued to his lips.

  "I think that story should be written down," observed the pacha, after apause of a few moments.

  "I have already given directions, your highness, and the Greek slave isnow employed about it, improving the language to render it more pleasingto the ears of your sublime highness, should it be your pleasure to haveit read to you on some future day."

  "That is right, Mustapha; if I recollect well, the caliph Haroun used tocommand them to be written in letters of gold, and be deposited in thearchives: we must do the same."

  "The art no longer exists, your highness."

  "Then we must be content with Indian-ink," replied the pacha, liftingthe pitcher to his mouth, and emptying it. "The sun will soon be down,Mustapha, and we must set off."