L. Mühlbach.

Mohammed Ali and His House online

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An Historical Romance





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


I. The Flower of Praousta
II. Masa
III. The First Day of Creation
IV. Masa's Jewelry
V. The Deliverance
VI. The Flight
VII. The Messenger
VIII. Vanished
IX. Where is she?
X. The Departure
XI. The Triple Oath
XII. The Paradise under the Earth


I. Revenge
II. All Things pass away
III. The Bim Bashi
IV. The Embarkation
V. The Camp at Aboukir
VI. The Massacre
VII. Restitution
VIII. The Viceroy of Egypt
IX. Sitta Nefysseh
X. L'Elfi Bey
XI. The Council of War
XII. The Abduction


I. Butheita
II. In the Desert
III. The Agreement
IV. The Revolt
V. A Strong Heart
VI. Persecution
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
XVI. Retribution
XVII. Conclusion





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

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

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

"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

"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



"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

"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

"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

Online LibraryL. MühlbachMohammed Ali and His House → online text (page 1 of 39)