A Modern Telemachus - Part 15

Part 15

'From when this youth?

His country, name, and birth declare!'


'You had forgotten this legacy, Mr. Hope,' said Captain Beresford, taking Arthur into his cabin, 'and, judging by its weight, it is hardly to be neglected. I put it into my locker for security.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Arthur. 'The question is whether I ought to take it. I wished for your advice.'

'I heard what pa.s.sed,' said the captain. 'I should call your right as complete as if you had a will made by a half a dozen lawyers. When we get into port, a few crowns to the ship's company to drink your health, and all will be right. Will you count it?'

The folds were undone, and little piles made of the gold, but neither the captain nor Arthur were much the wiser. The purser might have computed it, but Captain Beresford did not propose this, thinking perhaps that it was safer that no report of a treasure should get abroad in the ship.

He made a good many inquiries, which he had deferred till Arthur should be in a fitter condition for answering, first about the capture and wreck, and what the young man had been able to gather about the Cabeleyzes. Then, as the replies showed that he had a gentleman before him, Captain Beresford added that he could not help asking, '_Que diable allait il faire dans cette galere_?'

'Sir,' said Arthur, 'I do not know whether you will think it your duty to make me a prisoner, but I had better tell you the whole truth.'

'Oho!' said the captain; 'but you are too young! You could never have been out with--with--we'll call him the Chevalier.'

'I ran away from school,' replied Arthur, colouring. 'I was a mere boy, and I never was attainted,' explained Arthur, blushing. 'I have been with my Lord Nithsdale, and my mother thought I could safely come home, and that if I came from Sweden my brother could not think I compromised him.'

'Your brother?'

'Lord Burnside. He is at Court, in favour, they say, with King George.

He is my half-brother; my mother is a Maxwell.'

'There is a Hope in garrison at Port Mahon--a captain,' said the captain.

'Perhaps he will advise you what to do if you are sick of Jacobite intrigue and mystery, and ready to serve King George.'

Arthur's face lighted up. 'Will it be James Hope of Ryelands, or d.i.c.kie Hope of the Lynn, or--?'

Captain Beresford held up his hands.

'Time must show that, my young friend,' he said, smiling. 'And now I think the officers expect you to join their mess in the gunroom.'

There Arthur found the little Chevalier strutting about in an adaptation of the smallest midshipman's uniform, and the centre of an admiring party, who were equally diverted by his consequential airs and by his accounts of his sports among the Moors. Happy fellow, he could adapt himself to any society, and was ready to be the pet and plaything of the ship's company, believing himself, when he thought of anything beyond the present, to be full on the road to his friends again.

Fareek was a much more difficult charge, for Arthur had hardly a word that he could understand. He found the poor fellow coiled up in a corner, just where he had seen his former master's remains disappear, still moaning and weeping bitterly. As Arthur called to him he looked up for a moment, then crawled forward, striking his forehead at intervals against the deck. He was about to kiss the feet of his former fellow- slave, the glittering gold, blue, and white of whose borrowed dress no doubt impressed him. Arthur hastily started back, to the amazement of the spectators, and called out a negative--one of the words sure to be first learnt. He tried to take Fareek's hand and raise him from his abject att.i.tude; but the poor fellow continued kneeling, and not only were no words available to tell him that he was free, but it was extremely doubtful whether freedom was any boon to him. One thing, however, he did evidently understand--he pointed to the St. George's pennant with the red cross, made the sign, looked an interrogation, and on Arthur's reply, 'Christians,' and reiteration of the word 'Salem,'

_peace_, he folded his arms and looked rea.s.sured.

'Ay, ay, my hearty,' said the big boatswain, 'ye've got under the old flag, and we'll soon make you see the difference. Cut out your poor tongue, have they, the rascals, and made a dummy of you? I wish my cat was about their ears! Come along with you, and you shall find what British grog is made of.'

And a remarkable friendship arose between the two, the boatswain patronising Fareek on every occasion, and roaring at him as if he were deaf as well as dumb, and Fareek appearing quite confident under his protection, and establishing a system of signs, which were fortunately a universal language. The Abyssinian evidently viewed himself as young Hope's servant or slave, probably thinking himself part of his late master's bequest, and there was no common language between them in which to explain the difference or ascertain the poor fellow's wishes. He was a slightly-made, dexterous man, probably about five and twenty years of age, and he caught up very quickly, by imitation, the care he could take of Arthur's clothes, and the habit of waiting on him at meals.

Meantime the _Calypso_ held her course to the south-east, till the chart declared the coast to be that of Djigheli Bay, and Arthur recognised the headlands whither the unfortunate tartane had drifted to her destruction.

Anchoring outside the hay, Captain Beresford sent the first lieutenant, Mr. Bullock, in the long-boat, with Arthur and a well-armed force, with instructions to offer no violence, but to reconnoitre; and if they found Mademoiselle de Bourke, or any others of the party, to do their best for their release by promises of ransom or representations of the consequences of detaining them. Arthur was prepared to offer his own piastres at once in case of need of immediate payment. He was by this time tolerably versed in the vernacular of the Mediterranean, and a cook's boy, shipped at Gibraltar, was also supposed to be capable of interpreting.

The beautiful bay, almost realising the description of AEneas' landing- place, lay before them, the still green waters within reflecting the fantastic rocks and the wreaths of verdure which crowned them, while the white mountain-tops rose like clouds in the far distance against the azure sky. Arthur could only, however, think of all this fair scene as a cruel prison, and those sharp rocks as the jaws of a trap, when he saw the ribs of the tartane still jammed into the rock where she had struck, and where he had saved the two children as they were washed up the hatchway. He saw the rock where the other three had clung, and where he had left the little girl. He remembered the crowd of howling, yelling savages, leaping and gesticulating on the beach, and his heart trembled as he wondered how it had ended.

Where were the Cabeleyzes who had thus greeted them? The bay seemed perfectly lonely. Not a sound was to be heard but the regular dip of the oars, the cry of a startled bird, and the splash of a flock of seals, which had been sunning themselves on the sh.o.r.e, and which floundered into the sea like Proteus' flock of yore before Ulysses. Would that Proteus himself had still been there to be captured and interrogated! For the place was so entirely deserted that, saving for the remains of the wreck, he must have believed himself mistaken in the locality, and the lieutenant began to question him whether it had been daylight when he came ash.o.r.e.

Could the natives have hidden themselves at sight of an armed vessel? Mr.

Bullock resolved on landing, very cautiously, and with a sufficient guard. On the sh.o.r.e some fragments of broken boxes and packing cases appeared; and a sailor pointed out the European lettering painted on one--sse de B---. It plainly was part of the address to the Comtesse de Bourke. This encouraged the party in their search. They ascended the path which poor Hebert and Lanty Callaghan had so often painfully climbed, and found themselves before the square of reed hovels, also deserted, but with black marks where fires had been lighted, and with traces of recent habitation.

Arthur picked up a rag of the Bourke livery, and another of a brocade which he had seen the poor Countess wearing. Was this all the relic that he should ever be able to take to her husband?

He peered about anxiously in hopes of discovering further tokens, and Mr.

Bullock was becoming impatient of his lingering, when suddenly his eye was struck by a score on the bark of a chestnut tree like a cross, cut with a feeble hand. Beneath, close to the trunk, was a stone, beyond the corner of which appeared a bit of paper. He pounced upon it. It was the t.i.tle-page of Estelle's precious Telemaque, and on the back was written in French, If any good Christian ever finds this, I pray him to carry it to M. the French Consul at Algiers. We are five poor prisoners, the Abbe de St. Eudoce, Estelle, daughter of the Comte de Bourke, and our servants, Jacques Hebert, Laurent Callaghan, Victorine Renouf. The Cabeleyzes are taking us away to their mountains. We are in slavery, in hunger, filth, and deprivation of all things. We pray day and night that the good G.o.d will send some one to rescue us, for we are in great misery, and they persecute us to make us deny our faith. O, whoever you may be, come and deliver us while we are yet alive.'

Arthur was almost choked with tears as he translated this piteous letter to the lieutenant, and recollected the engaging, enthusiastic little maiden, as he had seen her on the Rhone, but now brought to such a state.

He implored Mr. Bullock to pursue the track up the mountain, and was grieved at this being treated as absurdly impossible, but then recollecting himself, 'You could not, sir, but I might follow her and make them understand that she must be saved--'

'And give them another captive,' said Bullock; 'I thought you had had enough of that. You will do more good to this flame of yours--'

'No flame, sir. She is a mere child, little older than her brother. But she must not remain among these lawless savages.'

'No! But we don't throw the helve after the hatchet, my lad! All you can do is to take this epistle to the French Consul, who might find it hard to understand without your explanations. At any rate, my orders are to bring you safe on board again.'

Arthur had no choice but to submit, and Captain Beresford, who had a wife and children at home, was greatly touched by the sight of the childish writing of the poor little motherless girl; above all when Arthur explained that the high-sounding t.i.tle of Abbe de St. Eudoce only meant one who was more likely to be a charge than a help to her.

France was for the nonce allied with England, and the dread of pa.s.sing to Sweden through British seas had apparently been quite futile, since, if Captain Beresford recollected the Irish blood of the Count, it was only as an additional cause for taking interest in him. Towards the Moorish pirates the interest of the two nations united them. It was intolerable to think of the condition of the captives; and the captain, anxious to lose no time, rejoiced that his orders were such as to justify him in sailing at once for Algiers to take effectual measures with the consul before letting the family know the situation of the poor Demoiselle de Bourke.


'With dazed vision unawares From the long alley's latticed shade Emerged, I came upon the great Pavilion of the Caliphat.

Right to the carven cedarn doors, Flung inward over spangled floors, Broad-based flights of marble stairs Ran up with golden bal.u.s.trade, After the fashion of the time, And humour of the golden prime Of good Haroun Alraschid.'


Civilised and innocuous existence has no doubt been a blessing to Algiers as well as to the entire Mediterranean, but it has not improved the picturesqueness of its aspect any more than the wild and splendid 'tiger, tiger burning bright,' would be more ornamental with his claws pared, the fiery gleam of his yellow eyes quenched, and his spirit tamed, so as to render him only an exaggerated domestic cat. The steamer, whether of peace or war, is a melancholy subst.i.tute for the splendid though sinister galley, with her ranks of oars and towers of canvas, or for the dainty lateen-sailed vessels, skimming the waters like flying fish, and the Frank garb ill replaces the graceful Arab dress. The Paris-like block of houses ill replaces the graceful Moorish architecture, undisturbed when the _Calypso_ sailed into the harbour, and the amphitheatre-like city rose before her, in successive terraces of dazzling white, interspersed with palms and other trees here and there, with mosques and minarets rising above them, and with a crown of strong fortifications. The harbour itself was protected by a strongly-fortified mole, and some parley pa.s.sed with the governor of the strong and grim-looking castle adjacent--a huge round tower erected by the Spaniards, and showing three ranks of brazen teeth in the shape of guns.

Finally, the Algerines having been recently brought to their bearings, as Captain Beresford said, entrance was permitted, and the _Calypso_ enjoyed the shelter of the mole; while he, in full-dress uniform, took boat and went ash.o.r.e, and with him the two escaped prisoners. Fareek remained on board till the English Consul could be consulted on his fate.

England and France were on curious terms with Algiers. The French had bombarded the city in 1686, and had obtained a treaty by which a consul constantly resided in the city, and the persons and property of French subjects were secured from piracy, or if captured were always released.

The English had made use of the possession of Gibraltar and Minorca to enforce a like treaty. There was a little colony of European merchants--English, French, and Dutch--in the lower town, near the harbour, above which the Arab town rose, as it still rises, in a steep stair. Ships of all these nations traded at the port, and quite recently the English Consul, Thomas Thompson by name, had vindicated the honour of his flag by citing before the Dey a man who had insulted him on the narrow causeway of the mole. The Moor was sentenced to receive 2200 strokes of bastinado on the feet, 1000 the first day, 1200 on the second, and he died in consequence, so that Englishmen safely walked the narrow streets. The Dey who had inflicted this punishment was, however, lately dead. Mehemed had been elected and installed by the chief Janissaries, and it remained to be proved whether he would show himself equally anxious to be on good terms with the Christian Powers.

Arthur's heart had learnt to beat at sight of the British ensign with emotions very unlike those with which he had seen it wave at Sheriffmuir; but it looked strange above the low walls of a Moorish house, plain outside, but with a richly cusped and painted horse-shoe arch at the entrance to a lovely cloistered court, with a sparkling fountain surrounded by orange trees with fruit of all shades from green to gold.

Servants in white garments and scarlet fezzes, black, brown, or white (by courtesy), seemed to swarm in all directions; and one of them called a youth in European garb, but equally dark-faced with the rest, and not too good an English scholar. However, he conducted them through a still more beautiful court, lined with brilliant mosaics in the spandrels of the exquisite arches supported on slender shining marble columns.

Mr. Thompson's English coat and hearty English face looked incongruous, as at sight of the blue and white uniform he came forward with all the hospitable courtesy due to a post-captain. There was shaking of hands, and doffing of c.o.c.ked hats, and calling for wine, and pipes, and coffee, in the Alhambra-like hall, where a table covered with papers tied with red tape, in front of a homely leathern chair, looked more homelike than suitable. Other chairs there were for Frank guests, who preferred them to the divan and piles of cushions on which the Moors transacted business.

'What can I do for you, sir?' he asked of the captain, 'or for this little master,' he added, looking at Ulysse, who was standing by Arthur.

'He is serving the King early.'

'I don't belong to your King George,' broke out the young gentleman. 'He is an _usurpateur_. I have only this uniform on till I can get my proper clothes. I am the son of the Comte de Bourke, Amba.s.sador to Spain and Sweden. I serve no one but King Louis!'