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   Chapter 3 THE REVOLT.

Mohammed Ali and His House By L. Muhlbach Characters: 20251

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


To have gained a week is to have gained a great deal.

Within this time the viceroy will succeed in replenishing his coffers. His defterdar is very skillful in the art of getting money, and who should understand the art if not the minister of finance? He will find means to collect from the ulemas, from the rich sheiks, and from the merchants, money enough to quiet his rebellious troops. A week is a long period, and he will find means to satisfy them all.

But, after a few days, the terrible intelligence reaches Cousrouf pacha: Taher Pacha is defeated; the stronghold Migne has been captured by the Mameluke beys. Taher Pacha is defeated, and is returning with his army-corps to Cairo!

"He shall not come, he must not come!" cried the viceroy, angrily. "No, he must not come; as it is, we have rebellious soldiers enough here now. They would unite with Taher's troops, and clamor for pay again. And our coffers are empty. Send messengers to meet the advancing troops, with instructions to General Taher to march with his corps to Tantah, and there await further orders. In any case, I forbid him to return here to Cairo. Is my capital to be made a camp? Is it merely an immense barrack in which these insolent fellows are to puff themselves up and do violence to all honest and respectable people? It is enough to have to tolerate Mohammed Ali and his men here. Taher Pacha shall not unite with them. Quick, dispatch the messengers at once!"

The messengers, in accordance with the viceroy's instructions, hastened forth in the direction from which Taher must come. But the messengers did not meet him. He did not come by the expected route. He had taken another-a secret messenger having come to him with this warning:

"Hasten forward, Taher-you are to be kept at a distance from the capitol! It is intended to withhold their pay from your soldiers!"

He did not know from whom this messenger came, but he believed him. Resolved not to remain where a message from the viceroy could reach him, Taher Pacha took another road, and, before another messenger could reach him, Taher entered Cairo with his army. The uproar in the streets, the shouting of the soldiers as they greeted their friends, announced to the viceroy what had taken place. And in great wrath he learned from the defterdar, who came running to the viceroy in despair, that his fears were only too well founded.

Yes, it was as he expected. The soldiers had not gone to their barracks; Taher had not come to seek repose in his house, but to demand his and his soldiers' pay. "We are in rags, and starving; we need shoes and clothes. Give us our pay, that we may satisfy our hunger and clothe ourselves!"

"But how am I to pay them?" said the defterdar, addressing the viceroy in anxious tones. "Our coffers are empty, and all resources exhausted. I know not what to do or where to turn."

The viceroy sat gazing at him gloomily. Suddenly a thought seemed to occur to him; his countenance brightened. "Mohammed Ali is shrewd and fertile in resources. We must apply to him. He will help us out of our difficulty. He is thoughtful, cool, and resolute. True, he assumed a hostile attitude toward me a few days ago, but he must be reconciled.

He must be prevented from uniting with Taher. The two united would be a fearful combination against me."

He instructs the defterdar to go in person to Mohammed Ali to request him to come to the viceroy. "We cannot pay the troops, but we can find enough to pay the general's salary."

Cousrouf Pacha takes from his own private funds ten purses of gold- pieces. He carries them himself to the apartment in which be intends to receive the sarechsme.

In the mean while the minister of finance had, in accordance with the viceroy's instructions, repaired with great haste to the palace in which the sarechsme resided. A body of Albanian soldiers were encamped about the palace. They called themselves the body-guard of the sarechsme. The heart of the finance minister throbbed with dismay when he beheld their daring, resolute faces.

"If this is the sarechsme's body-guard, then woe to the viceroy!" said he to himself, as he ascended the stairway that led to the general's apartment. With a trembling voice and humble demeanor, he delivered the viceroy's message to the general.

"He begs you to come to him. He wishes to be reconciled to you; he will himself hand you the arrearages of pay. But I entreat you, come without your great suite-it might be wrongly interpreted. I mean well with you; I am your friend. Do not come with your body-guard, sarechsme."

"We two should understand each other better," replied Mohammed, smiling derisively. "You tremble for me. I thank you, but see, I am not trembling at all myself. He who pursues an honest course and is faithful to his master and his service, has no occasion to tremble. This you shall see, for I intend to go to the viceroy entirely alone. Only my men shall at least know where I have gone, that is all. Come!"

With a haughty smile, the defterdar following, he descended the broad stairway of his palace, and cordially greeted the soldiers standing about the gateway, who received him with shouts of joy.

"Be patient, my friends, I entreat you, be patient, and await my return. I will return in an hour; wait here for me that long. Should I not return by that time, seek me."

The defterdar, who hears every word of this, murmurs to himself: "It will be necessary to acquaint his highness with this, that he may be on his guard, and not detain the sarechsme in his fortress too long. The consequences might be dangerous."

In humble terms he begs to be permitted to hasten in advance to announce his coming to the viceroy. The sarechsme assents with a gracious inclination of the head, and smiles benignantly on the finance minister.

"We understand each other right well, my good defterdar. You are right; go in advance, and announce me to the viceroy."

He waited a short time in the court-yard, conversing with the soldiers who gathered around him to complain of their wrongs.

"I am going up to the citadel to the viceroy, in your interests.

Wait patiently for an entire hour," repeated Mohammed.

He then mounts his horse and rides up to the citadel. The defterdar has hardly had time to convey the warning to the viceroy:

"Do not detain him here too long, highness. If he remains here longer than an hour, his soldiers will come up here after him in open revolt. Taher's troops have not gone to their barracks, and are only awaiting the signal to join them."

Cousrouf nodded his assent, and muttered to himself: "I was wrong in not treading this viper under foot in Cavalla; now it intends to bite me-I feel it, it intends to bite me; but it shall not. I will draw its fangs."

His Nubian slave now enters and announces to his master that the sarechsme, Mohammed Ali, stands without, awaiting his pleasure. Cousrouf's countenance quickly assumes a friendly expression.

"Leave me, defterdar, and await me in the next room. I shall not detain the sarechsme long."

The defterdar withdrew, and the Nubian slave opened the door to admit the general. With a military greeting, Mohammed Ali entered, and advanced toward the viceroy, who, on this occasion, received him standing, and not indolently reclining on his cushions, as was his habit; he even stepped forward to meet him, extending his hand, and saluting more cordially than usual.

"Sarechsme, when we last met, it was in anger. This I have deeply regretted, for you know what I think of you."

"Yes, highness, I know what you think of me," replied Mohammed, quietly.

The viceroy saw the derisive smile that played about his lips.

"I think well of you, Mohammed! I expect great things of you, and know that you are the truest and most devoted of my servants."

Mohammed looked up at him with a strange, inquiring glance. "Of your servants, highness? I did not know that I was one of them. I am devoted to you, as the general of the viceroy's troops should be, yet both of us are the servants of our master, the grand-sultan, at Stamboul."

"You are right, both of us are servants, the grand-sultan is master of us both; but I am his representative here, and it therefore follows that the proud sarechsme need not blush when I call him my faithful servant, as I stand for him in the place of the grand- sultan. And it is because you recognize in me his representative, and because you have sworn to serve him faithfully, that I have such confidence in your devotion to me."

"Highness, I am faithful to my oath, faithful to the grand-sultan, and faithful to you. I deeply regret that discord has arisen between you and me, ever devoted to you as I am. But let us not speak of this. I suppose you have called me on account of my troops. They have long received no pay; they are without food, and their clothes are in rags. They need and demand their pay. I, as their protector and general, must insist on your compliance with their just demand."

"The week within which I promised to pay them has not yet elapsed, four days still remain," said Cousrouf, suppressing his rage with difficulty; "therefore wait for your soldiers' pay, but you, Mohammed, you shall not wait. See how I honor and esteem you! There lie ten purses of gold-pieces, that is your salary. I joyously give it you out of my own private funds. Take your pay, my sarechsme!"

He pointed to a little marble table, on which the ten purses, through whose meshes the gold-pieces glittered, were laid in a row.

"I accept them, highness. It is my salary, and I am justly entitled to it. I accept them, and, though you only gave me my due, I nevertheless thank you for having done so."

"And you are now reconciled, Mohammed Ali, and no longer angry?" said Cousrouf, in flattering tones.

Mohammed bowed profoundly.

"How could I presume to be angry with your gracious highness? You know my devotion to you, Cousrouf."

"Prove it! Give me your advice. You know the country, you know the city; your eye is quick, and you observe much. I know

Mohammed Ali never walks indolently through the streets; his eye sees more than other eyes, his ear hears more than other ears; he knows far more than any of my servants. O Mohammed, if many of them were like you, I need not be anxious and pass sleepless nights. But you, Mohammed, are wise and shrewd, and have much experience and knowledge of the world. Advise me, sarechsme, as to the means of raising money. I myself, I confess, am at a loss to devise new means of replenishing my empty coffers."

"I thank you for the high honor you do me," replied Mohammed. "Advise you, the wise and experienced statesman! How flattering such a privilege to me! Yet, unfortunately, I must confess that I know not what to advise. But," he suddenly added, "one thing occurs to me. You have taxed the merchants, you have taken money from the ulemas, you have exacted it from the sheiks; but one thing you have forgotten-to tax the women, highness!"

"The women!" said Cousrouf, recoiling a step. "How could I tax the women? What women?"

"The wives of the Mameluke beys!" replied Mohammed. "You were gracious enough, highness, to permit these ladies to remain here in their palaces, in which they were accustomed to live like princesses."

"I gave my word, Mohammed Ali, that the wives of the Mameluke beys should remain here, and that they should not be molested. I gave my word. I did it because I knew that the people would suffer if the rich ladies, whose splendid house holds give employment and food to so many people, should be banished from the city. I did it for this reason, and must now keep my word."

"And they shall remain here unmolested, highness. Their liberty is not to be curtailed, neither is any harm to be done to their persons. But they must yield to necessity, and surrender some of their treasure. Mourad Bey's widow alone is very rich."

"Rich and courted by all the world!" cried Cousrouf Pacha. "All

Cairo is devoted to her! She is honored like a saint almost."

"Because she is rich," replied Mohammed, quietly. "The rich are always honored; the world falls down and worships them; but let them become poor, and the world drags them into the dust, and thus avenges itself for its former humiliation. Sitta Nefysseh, Mourad's widow, is rich. Her apartments, I am told, glitter with golden dishes and vases, gold and silver coins are piled up in closets, and whole chests are filled with jewelry and precious stones of every description, brought home by Mourad from his wars."

The viceroy's eyes sparkled.

"It would certainly be desirable to get possession of some of this treasure, yet we cannot become robbers. If we could do so by lawful means, it would be well. Tell me of some such means, Mohammed Ali."

"I know of no such means, highness," said Mohammed, shrugging his shoulders. "I only know that Sitta Nefysseh, as it is said, has a secret understanding with the beys, the comrades of her deceased husband. As I understand it, you only promised the wives of the Mamelukes permission to remain here, and protection under the condition that they were to abstain from all intercourse with the Mameluke beys. Yet it is known that Osman Bardissi and L'Elfi Bey, the two Mameluke chieftains, were not long since in Cairo, and that they paid the Sitta a visit. They both love her. They adore her, and defy every danger in order to see her. Of this I am certain, highness."

"If this is true," cried Cousrouf, "I have some pretext for calling her to account."

"And true it is, I assure you," replied Mohammed. "I myself saw Bardissi as he stepped out of the back gate of the park and mounted his horse, and a short time before I saw L'Elfi. Perhaps they had both come for money for the payment of their troops."

"I well know, myself," said Cousrouf, "that Mourad's widow is very rich, and generous to her friends. I will see her this very day, and this very day shall she be called to account."

"But by whom?" asked Mohammed, quickly. "The cadi and the sheik will not answer; for they, like all Cairo, love Sitta Nefysseh."

"Then I will call her to account myself!" cried Cousrouf, in resolute tones.

"But have you proofs of her guilt?" asked Mohammed. "Sitta Nefysseh is wise, and knows how to defend herself. Therefore proofs, and not the accusation only, are needed."

"I shall secure proofs! When we are determined to accuse any one, proofs are never wanting. Else of what use were our clerks and police? And now you may go, sarechsme. I thank you for your advice, and will quickly proceed to raise money from the Sitta before she suspects any thing. I thank you once more for your advice, Mohammed, and I shall always remember that you are the shrewdest and most faithful of all those who surround me-you perceive, I no longer say, of my servants. Let me say, as I most gladly do, Mohammed Ali- let me say, the most faithful of my friends! Does that please you?"

Mohammed replied with a profound bow only, and then silently withdrew.

The hour had not yet passed, and his soldiers waited peaceably, as he had commanded them. The Nubian slave of the viceroy followed his horse, carrying the ten purses of gold-pieces. The general dismounted at the door of the palace, and waited till the slave had come up and taken the golden treasure into his house. Mohammed then went to the grand hall and sent word down by a servant, that a deputation of twenty-two of his men were to come up to him. The sarechsme received them standing beside a table, on which lay the ten purses of gold pieces. He greeted them cordially.

"I saw the viceroy in your behalf, and begged for your pay. I was told that the week had not yet expired, and that you should wait. The viceroy, however, my soldiers, paid me the salary due me. They had forgotten to pay my salary ever since I have been in Egypt; it has therefore now become a considerable sum. I have received ten purses of gold, and I am really in need of this money to meet my household expenses. But who knows when you will receive your pay? We a11 share danger and want together, however; therefore let us share the good things of this world together. Five purses I will keep for myself, five purses belong to my soldiers. My housekeeper will go down into the courtyard with you, and distribute the money among you. I give it, not as your pay, but as a token of my friendship and satisfaction."

"Long live our general!" shouted the men; and they rushed forward, fell on their knees, and kissed his garments. He bade them rise, called his housekeeper, and gave him the five purses. The latter then went down with the soldiers to the courtyard. Mohammed followed them with his eyes, his countenance lighted up with a peculiar smile

"Now they are mine! With the money I gave them, I have bought their souls! Yes, they are mine! The seed I have sown is ripening. O Cousrouf, only follow my advice! Insult the one woman who is above all honored and esteemed in Cairo, the one before whom all bow in reverence-insult her, that the harvest-day of my revenge may soon come! But one thing still remains to be done: Sitta Nefysseh must be warned."

He stealthily stepped out into the garden through the side gate. Unseen by his soldiers he hastily crossed the park, and, opening a small door in the high wall that surrounded it, stepped out into the street.

It was silent and deserted. No one saw the cautious sarechsme, closely enveloped in his mantle, wend his way hastily through the narrow alleys to a little house that stood alone in the outskirts of the city. He crossed the threshold without meeting any one. All was still in the dark, narrow passage. He opened the door of the chamber. On a mat sat an old woman, weaving woolen cloth.

"Are you the mother of Kachef Youssouf?" asked the sarechsme.

She turned around. "Yes, I am. You have not come to arrest my son? He has not gone out to battle, he remains in Cairo, and is the faithful servant of his gracious mistress, Sitta Nefysseh."

"That I know. I have not come on a hostile errand, but merely to speak to him. Where is he?"

"Where he always is, master, with his gracious mistress. If you wish it, I will call him; a door opens from this house into Sitta Nefysseh's park, and I know where my son is to be found."

"Then call him quickly."

The old woman hastened away. In a short time she returned with her son Youssouf.

"Do you know me?" asked Mohammed, advancing to meet him.

"Yes, who does not know the brave sarechsme, Mohammed Ali?"

"Do you love your mistress? " asked Mohammed

Youssouf looked at him with an expression of dismay and anxiety.

"I mean, you love her as it beseems every faithful servant to love his mistress-you are ready to do her every service?"

"Yes, sarechsme, so do I love her," replied Youssouf, in low tones.

"Then listen! Come close to me-it is a secret. I tell you of it for your mistress's sake; reward me by letting no one know who told you."

"I swear that I will not, sarechsme!"

"Go to your mistress and tell her to have all her treasure, her gold and silver plate, and all her other valuables, put in a safe place. You probably have some such places in your cellars or vaults. It must be done quickly. Say a dream has warned you or what you will, but do not name me!"

He enveloped himself in his mantle, and hurried back to his palace, in which all was now still. The soldiers had gone out to spend the present given them by their general in joy and revelry. Mohammed was again alone in his chamber. e walked to and fro, reflecting on all he had done, with silent self-applause :

"It would have been unfortunate had he found Sitta Nefysseh's treasure. It would help him out of his difficulties. That would never do. You are falling, Cousrouf! and it is I who am hurling you down! Your peril increases with every hour! You have only to insult Sitta Nefysseh, and all Cairo will rise up in arms against you. Let that be your last deed! Then, Cousrouf, when you have fallen, you shall know who has destroyed you!-Masa, sleep quietly in your cold grave! You are being avenged!"

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