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- A Modern Telemachus - 10/31 -
whose brown limbs carried them up the mast with the agility of monkeys. There was one in especial--a slight, well-made fellow about twenty, with a white turban cleaner than the rest--who contrived to cast wonderful glances from the masthead over the barrier at Rosette, who actually smiled in return at ce pauvre garcon, and smiled the more for Mademoiselle Julienne's indignation. Suddenly, however, a shrill shout made him descend hastily, and the old Turk's voice might be heard in its highest key, no doubt shrieking out maledictions on all the ancestry of the son of a dog who durst defile his eyes with gazing at the shameless daughters of the Frank. Little Ulysse was, however, allowed to disport himself wherever he pleased; and after once, under Arthur's protection, going forward, he found himself made very welcome, and offered various curiosities, such as shells, corals, and a curious dried little hippocampus or seahorse.
This he brought back in triumph, to the extreme delight of his sister's classical mind. 'Oh mamma, mamma,' she cried, 'Ulysse really has got the skeleton of a Triton. It is exactly like the stone creatures in the Champs Elysees.'
There was no denying the resemblance, and it so increased the confusion in Estelle's mind between the actual and the mythological, that Arthur told her that she was looking out for the car of Amphitrite to arise from the waters. Anxiety and trouble had made him much better acquainted with Madame de Bourke, who was grateful to him for his kindness to her children, and not without concern as to whether she should be able to procure his release as well as her own at Algiers. For Laurence Callaghan she had no fears, since he was born at Paris, and a naturalised French subject like her husband and his brother; but Arthur was undoubtedly a Briton, and unless she could pass him off as one of her suite, it would depend on the temper of the English Consul whether he should be viewed as a subject or as a rebel, or simply left to captivity until his Scottish relations should have the choice of ransoming him.
She took a good deal of pains to explain the circumstances to him as well as to all who could understand them; for though she hoped to keep all together, and to be able to act for them herself, no one could guess how they might be separated, and she could not shake off that foreboding of misfortune which had haunted her from the first.
The kingdom of Algiers was, she told them, tributary to the Turkish Sultan, who kept a guard of Janissaries there, from among whom they themselves elected the Dey. He was supposed to govern by the consent of a divan, but was practically as despotic as any Eastern sovereign; and the Aga of the Janissaries was next in authority to him. Piracy on the Mediterranean was, as all knew, the chief occupation of the Turks and Moors of any spirit or enterprise, a Turk being in authority in each vessel to secure that the Sultan had his share, and that the capture was so conducted as not to involve Turkey in dangerous wars with European powers. Capture by the Moors had for several centuries been one of the ordinary contingencies of a voyage, and the misfortune that had happened to the party was not at all an unusual one.
In 1687, however, the nuisance had grown to such a height that Admiral Du Quesne bombarded the town of Algiers, and destroyed all the fortifications, peace being only granted on condition that a French Consul should reside at Algiers, and that French ships and subjects should be exempt from this violence of the corsairs.
The like treaties existed with the English, but had been very little heeded by the Algerines till recently, when the possession of Gibraltar and Minorca had provided harbours for British ships, which exercised a salutary supervision over these Southern sea-kings. The last Dey, Baba Hali, had been a wise and prudent man, anxious to repress outrage, and to be on good terms with the two great European powers; but he had died in the spring of the current year, 1718, and the temper of his successor, Mehemed, had not yet been proved.
Madame de Bourke had some trust in the Dutch Reis, renegade though he was. She had given him her beautiful watch, set with brilliants, and he had taken it with a certain gruff reluctance, declaring that he did not want it,--he was ready enough to serve her without such a toy.
Nevertheless the lady thought it well to impress on each and all, in case of any separation or further disaster, that their appeal must be to the French Consul, explaining minutely the forms in which it should be made.
'I cannot tell you,' she said to Arthur, 'how great a comfort it is to me to have with me a gentleman, one of intelligence and education to whom I can confide my poor children. I know you will do your utmost to protect them and restore them to their father.'
'With my very heart's blood, Madame.'
'I hope that may not be asked of you, Monsieur,' she returned with a faint smile,--'though I fear there may be much of perplexity and difficulty in the way before again rejoining him. You see where I have placed our passports? My daughter knows it likewise; but in case of their being taken from you, or any other accident happening to you, I have written these two letters, which you had better bear about your person. One is, as you see, to our Consul at Algiers, and may serve as credentials; the other is to my husband, to whom I have already written respecting you.'
'A thousand thanks, Madame,' returned Arthur. 'But I hope and trust we may all reach M. le Comte in safety together. You yourself said that you expected only a brief detention before he could be communicated with, and this captain, renegade though he be, evidently has a respect for you.'
'That is quite true,' she returned, 'and it may only be my foolish heart that forebodes evil; nevertheless, I cannot but recollect that c'est l'imprevu qui arrive.'
'Then, Madame, that is the very reason there should be no misfortune,' returned Arthur.
It was on the second day after the capture of the tartane that the sun set in a purple angry-looking bank of cloud, and the sea began to heave in a manner which renewed the earlier distresses of the voyage to such as were bad sailors. The sails both of the corsair and of the tartane were taken in, and it was plain that a rough night was to be expected. The children were lashed into their berths, and all prepared themselves to endure. The last time Arthur saw Madame de Bourke's face, by the light of the lamp swinging furiously from the cabin roof, as he assisted in putting in the dead lights, it bore the same fixed expression of fortitude and resignation as when she was preparing to be boarded by the pirates.
He remained on deck, but it was very perilous, for the vessel was so low in the water that the waves dashed over it so wildly that he could hardly help being swept away. It was pitch dark, too, and the lantern of the other vessel could only just be seen, now high above their heads, now sinking in the trouble of the sea, while the little tartane was lifted up as though on a mountain; and in a kind of giddy dream, he thought of falling headlong upon her deck. Finally he found himself falling. Was he washed overboard? No; a sharp blow showed him that he had only fallen down the hatchway, and after lying still a moment, he heard the voices of Lanty and Hebert, and presently they were all tossed together by another lurch of the ship.
It was a night of miseries that seemed endless, and when a certain amount of light appeared, and Arthur and Lanty crawled upon deck, the tempest was unabated. They found themselves still dashed, as if their vessel were a mere cork, on the huge waves; rushes of water coming over them, whether from sea or sky there was no knowing, for all seemed blended together in one mass of dark lurid gray; and where was the Algerine ship--so lately their great enemy, now watched for as their guide and guardian?
It was no place nor time for questions, even could they have been heard or understood. It was scarcely possible even to be heard by one another, and it was some time before they convinced themselves that the large vessel had disappeared. The cable must have parted in the night, and they were running with bare poles before the gale; the seamanship of the man at the helm being confined to avoiding the more direct blows of the waves, on the huge crests of which the little tartane rode-- gallantly perhaps in mariners' eyes, but very wretchedly to the feelings of the unhappy landsmen within her.
Arthur thought of St. Paul, and remembered with dismay that it was many days before sun or moon appeared. He managed to communicate his recollection to Lanty, who exclaimed, 'And he was a holy man, and he was a prisoner too. He will feel for us if any man can in this sore strait! Sancte Paule, ora pro nobis. An' haven't I got the blessed scapulary about me neck that will bring me through worse than this?'
The three managed to get down to tell the unfortunate inmates of the cabin what was the state of things, and to carry them some food, though at the expense of many falls and severe blows; and almost all of them were too faint or nauseated to be able to swallow such food as could survive the transport under such circumstances. Yet high-spirited little Estelle entreated to be carried on deck, to see what a storm was like. She had read of them so often, and wanted to see as well as to feel. She was almost ready to cry when Arthur assured her it was quite impossible, and her mother added a grave order not to trouble him.
Madame de Bourke looked so exhausted by the continual buffeting and the closeness of the cabin, and her voice was so weak, that Arthur grieved over the impossibility of giving her any air. Julienne tried to make her swallow some eau de vie; but the effort of steadying her hand seemed too much for her, and after a terrible lurch of the ship, which lodged the poor bonne in the opposite corner of the cabin, the lady shook her head and gave up the attempt. Indeed, she seemed so worn out that Arthur--little used to the sight of fainting--began to fear that her forebodings of dying before she could rejoin her husband were on the point of being realised.
However, the gale abated towards evening, and the youth himself was so much worn out that the first respite was spent in sleep. When he awoke, the sea was much calmer, and the eastern sun was rising in glory over it; the Turks, with their prayer carpets in a line, were simultaneously kneeling and bowing in prayer, with their faces turned towards it. Lanty uttered an only too emphatic curse upon the misbelievers, and Arthur vainly tried to make him believe that their 'Allah il Allah' was neither addressed to Mohammed nor the sun.
'Sure and if not, why did they make their obeisance to it all one as the Persians in the big history-book Master Phelim had at school?'
'It's to the east they turn Lanty, not to the sun.'
'And what right have the haythen spalpeens to turn to the east like good Christians?'
''Tis to their Prophet's tomb they look, at Mecca.'
'There, an' I tould you they were no better than haythens,' returned
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