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Mohammed Ali and His House By L. Muhlbach Characters: 16502

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

THE Mamelukes, so often driven from Cairo, are once more enthroned in the citadel. Cairo reposes, and hopes for a long period of peace.

And it really seemed that peace had entered the city with the Mamelukes and Osman Bey. The citizens could once more pursue their daily avocations in tranquillity, and bands of disorderly soldiers no longer roamed about in the neighborhood, destroying and plundering.

Perhaps the wounds inflicted on the people by so many cruel wars would have time to heal. But no, their hopes are vain. In Cairo there is peace, for Ismail Bey, the oldest and wisest of the Mamelukes, sits enthroned in the citadel, and with him Bardissi, whom Mohammed Ali calls his friend.

In Cairo there is peace, for the Albanians and Armenians are under subjection to their sarechsme, Mohammed Ali. But, without, war raises its bloody head, and threatens Egypt with new misery.

Is not Cousrouf Pacha, the former viceroy, still in the country? Has he not fled to Upper Egypt? Have not his troops followed him there, and has not his reputation drawn many to his standard? And are there not many who refuse to submit to the Mameluke rule, and remain faithful to the flag of their master, Cousrouf Pacha, the Viceroy of Egypt?

No sooner had Cousrouf heard of the death of Taher Pacha than he started from Damietta, where he had lain encamped with his army, to return to Cairo and resume his authority.

Mohammed, informed of this advance, consulted Bardissi, and it was agreed that their united forces should march out to meet the enemy, Hassan Bey being first sent out with a body of Arabian cavalry to feel the enemy's lines.

With united forces they now marched out, Mohammed Ali and the beys,

his former enemies, side by side; the Albanians, Ottomans, and

Armenians, were in front; behind them came the Mamelukes and


In the mean while, Cousrouf had advanced victoriously. He had driven Hassan Bey before him, and had stormed the village of Fareskour, in which the bey had fortified himself. The inhabitants were slain, and the houses sacked and destroyed by Cousrouf's soldiers.

After this victory, the advance on Cairo seemed easier. Cousrouf, however, preferred to retreat to Damietta, having learned that a larger force was advancing to meet him. Hassan Bey had returned by hurried marches to Cairo, and demanded re-enforcements, which were given him. With these, he again advanced toward Damietta, followed by Mohammed and Bardissi with their powerful columns. With great haste, Cousrouf set about making Damietta strong enough to defy the enemy. The walls were crowned with cannon, and two guns were placed in position on the bridge that spans the Nile canal, at Damietta. A plentiful supply of provisions and munitions of war was also accumulated in the fortress.

"And now let us await the enemy. Allah and the right are with us. The grand-sultan at Stamboul has appointed me viceroy; the rebels have driven me from Cairo, but my just cause will lead me back in triumph!"

In such terms did Cousrouf speak to his soldiers to encourage them to make a gallant defence of the fortress.

But Cousrouf's words excited little enthusiasm among his followers; the scouts sent out returned with the intelligence that the enemy was approaching in immense force.

They were advancing along the Nile, Mohammed with the infantry, Bardissi with the mounted troops. Now they were separated from the enemy by the canal only, but Cousrouf's cannon made impassible the one bridge that united the two shores.

"Yet we must effect our passage to the other side," said Bardissi.

"Yes, but the question is, how are we to do so?" said Mohammed.

All the bim bashis and boulouk bashis, together with the beys and their kachefs, were called together in a council of war. For a long time their deliberations were fruitless. How were they to get over without boats or bridges?

"We must ford it," said Mohammed Ali. "There must be some place where we can venture to cross on foot. There are shallow places in the canal, I have been told; and, if some one could be found willing to incur the danger of making inquiries on the other side, in Damietta, where they are better informed on the subject, we might succeed in finding such a place."

"I will undertake this duty," said the kachef Youssouf, stepping forward. "I will go over to Damietta and obtain the desired information."

"You are a brave man, Kachef Youssouf," said Bardissi, "but consider that you risk your life, and perhaps in vain."

"I shall, however, die in the performance of my duty! I will go over and make the attempt!"

"As you are? And do you not suppose the first sentinel on the walls of Damietta will shoot you down?"

"I shall not go as I am, Osman Bey. They will not be able to recognize in me the kachef of Bardissi and of Sitta Nefysseh."

And he was right. He was not recognized. Disguised as a fellah, in the long blouse that hung down to his feet, entirely unarmed, a plain brown cap on his head, and carrying, suspended to a strap over his shoulder, a basket filled with watermelons, Kachef Youssouf entered the fortress of Damietta on the following morning.

He called out his fruit, and people hastened to him to purchase. The kachef chatted gayly with them in the Arabian tongue, and told them of the enemy who was approaching, but who could find no passage over the canal; and Youssouf laughed at and derided the enemy.

They quickly observed that he was a faithful servant of the viceroy, and therefore chatted with him unreservedly. Much was told the fellah of the want of the soldiers, and of the longing of the people to see the war terminated.

"If they could only get over," said some of the people, with a sigh. "There are shallow places, here and there, where a passage would be easy."

Youssouf's manner was careless and indifferent, but nothing escaped him. No one read in his countenance the fearful danger to which he was exposed, and he passed the entire day strolling around in Damietta. But, when night came, he hastened to the canal, and tried the places casually mentioned during the day. He finally attempted to cross over at the place spoken of as the most shallow.

And he has succeeded! There he stands on the other bank, dripping with water, his wet blouse clinging to his person. He hastened to the camp to Bardissi, to bring the glad intelligence that there is a place where they can cross on foot to the other shore in spite of the cannon on the bridge, and of the garrison of Damietta.

"Well done, brave kachef!" cried Bardissi. "You have deserved your reward, and you shall have it! I appoint you kachef of my guard, and give you a command of one hundred Mamelukes."

Youssouf's countenance lighted up, and his eyes sparkled with delight. He thought of Sitta Nefysseh, and rejoiced in his successful feat, and 'in his reward, because she would be pleased.

"O Sitta Nefysseh, when I come into your presence, and kneel down before you, will you receive me graciously, and permit me to remain with you henceforth? O Sitta Nefysseh, if the time were only come when on bended knee I can say to you: 'Your servant has returned, but he is no longer a poor kachef! He has won laurels because you commanded him to seek them! May he now serve you again?' Oh, that I were with you again, Sitta Nefysseh!"

On the following night they were conducted by Youssouf to the place at which he had forded the canal.

The Mameluke beys dismount and step into the water. In advance is Osman Bey, and beside him Mohammed Ali. The passage must be effected noiselessly, so as not to attract the attention of the enemy.

The water rushes past them, almost carrying their feet from under them. It already reaches their shoulders, and they can hardly retain their foothold. Kachef Youssouf must have been deceived. A wave, driven by the night-wind, rolls by and sweeps Mohammed with it.

Osman Bey sees his friend torn from his side, rushes after him, grasps him with his strong arm, and holds him securely.

"I thank you, Osman Bey, you have saved my life."

"And I thank Allah that I was at your side and could save it."

Finally they succeed in getting over, and now th

ey stand on the other shore. Bardissi embraces Mohammed, and congratulates him on their safe passage. He then grasps Youssouf's hand, and thanks him once more.

"Now, good Cousrouf, the days of your rule are numbered."

"Yes," murmured Mohammed to himself, "I, too, rejoice in your coming overthrow. O Allah, give us all victory, and give me vengeance!"

The passage of the troops is effected. The Albanians first rush to the bridge where the cannon are in position, cut down the gunners before they can give an alarm, and with the captured guns fire their first shots into Damietta.

The thunder of these shots arouses the enemy, who lie encamped in front of the fortress, and a bloody, fiercely-contested battle begins. But at its conclusion the allies, Bardissi and Mohammed Ali, enter Damietta in triumph. No quarter is given. They massacre all who fall into their hands; every house is sacked and then burned. On the square in front of Fort Lesbe, a column of soldiers, Cousrouf Pacha at its head, sitting proudly erect on his steed, still opposes them. He has been bravely fighting all along, fighting for life, for victory, for glory, but he has fought in vain; he prefers, however, to die at the head of his followers, than to flee, or fall into the hands of Mohammed Ali.

The enemy approaches. A ball strikes Cousrouf's horse, and it sinks to the ground. With difficulty he succeeds in extricating himself from his fallen steed.

"Upon them, my brave soldiers!" he cries, drawing his ataghan. "Let us fight our way through to the fort. There we shall be secure."

"You shall never reach it!" exclaims Bardissi, his uplifted sword descending upon Cousrouf's head.

Suddenly his arm is grasped, and held as in a vise.

"Give him to me, Bardissi!" cries Mohammed.

"And you wish to save Cousrouf's life, Mohammed?"

"Only give him to me, Bardissi, I pray you!"

Bardissi recognized in the tone in which these few words were uttered, that Mohammed's motive in making his request was not love for Cousrouf.

"You are my prisoner," cried Mohammed, tearing the sword from

Cousrouf's hand, and hurling it far from him. He then grasped him by

the shoulders and looked him firmly in the eye. "Cousrouf Pacha, I,

Mohammed Ali, make you my prisoner."

Cousrouf makes no reply, but only gazes defiantly upon his enemy; gradually his head sinks down upon his breast. Yes, he is vanquished and a prisoner, a prisoner of his worst enemy. He could be in no worse hands than in those that now hold him. To become Mohammed Ali's prisoner was the worst that could befall him.

And vanquished and captured he is, by this his most relentless enemy! With him are vanquished all his followers, and nothing is left of the fortress of Damietta but ashes and ruins.

The victors have decided to send Cousrouf a prisoner to Cairo, to the citadel where he once sat enthroned.

Mohammed entered the apartment in a half-burned house of Damietta in which Cousrouf was confined. None else is in the room. Without, the sentinel is pacing to and fro, and in an adjoining room lie two Nubian slaves who have remained faithful to their master, wounded and exhausted by loss of blood.

Cousrouf sees Mohammed enter, and a groan escapes his breast; involuntarily he carries his hand to his belt. He is unarmed! He cannot hurl himself upon him, and in his downfall destroy him also.

Mohammed stands before him, armed, his eyes fixed on him in a hard, cruel gaze. Cousrouf feels this, glance, and knows that his enemy rejoices in his humiliation. For a long time no word is spoken. At last Cousrouf raises his eyes and endeavors to look his enemy in the face; but he cannot. So terrible, so threatening is his expression, that Cousrouf shudders. It seems to him at this moment that an avenging angel stands before him; and the viceroy, usually so haughty and overbearing, feels humiliated and helpless.

"Cousrouf Pacha," said Mohammed, after a long pause, "look at me! I have long worn a mask; you placed it on my countenance, and I allowed you to do so, and awaited my time. Cousrouf Pacha, raise your eyes and look at me! I no longer wear a mask!"

Cousrouf looked up at him, and now his glance was firm, and his countenance composed.

" I see, Mohammed Ali, sarechsme by my grace, I see that you now wear a mask. He who now stands before me is hardly a human being, but the mere embodiment of hatred-envy and hatred personified."

"You mistake, Cousrouf," replied Mohammed in haughty tones. "Not envy and hatred, but vengeance personified. Cousrouf, I have awaited this hour for thirteen years. Am I not to enjoy it now? Do you think I would relinquish it for all the wealth and power of the world?"

"I know you would not," replied Cousrouf, quietly. "Yet you would give all these thirteen years of falsehood and trickery, of cunning flattery; yes, you would give the miserable triumph of this hour for a single smile of the slave to whom I awarded merited punishment. Ah, Mohammed Ali, you fancied yourself the victor. I am he! This your thirst for vengeance proclaims. It tells me that the wound in your heart still burns. And who gave you this wound? I, Cousrouf Pacha, and therefore do you seek vengeance on me. The wound still bleeds, and I am triumphant! Yes, I am the victor. You should see your own countenance at this moment; now, you are not vengeance and hatred, but misery, personified. Let me in conclusion proclaim this: Masa is dead, and I slew Masa. Slay me, her murderer. But dying, I shall cry exultingly: 'Your wound still bleeds, and I am victor! Masa is dead, here stands her slayer, slay him!'"

For a moment Mohammed was silent; a deathly pallor had overspread his countenance, and his eyes gleamed fiercely. He grasped the dagger in his girdle, drew it from its sheath, and raised it high in his right hand.

Cousrouf gazed at him with a triumphant expression.

He wished for death, he longed for it after his fearful overthrow.

Perhaps Mohammed read this in his glance. His arm sank slowly to his side, and he replaced the dagger in its sheath.

"Cousrouf Pacha, you desire death, but you shall not die. You shall live to learn that the wound in my heart no longer bleeds; that it is healed. If it were not so, by Allah, you, the murderer of Masa, were already dead! Do you hear me? I pronounce the name I have not spoken for many years the name Masa! You were her murderer, not her judge! You were not her master, she was not your slave. Her death was not lawful; you could not condemn her, and therefore do I call you a common murderer. I know that murderers are slain, that blood is atoned for by blood. This punishment the heart dictates, and this punishment the law of the land prescribes. But this punishment were too mild for you, Cousrouf Pacha. I will not slay you; you shall suffer shame and humiliation; you shall drink the cup of bitterness and disgrace to the very dregs. I will take you to Cairo, and there in the citadel you shall await my last act of revenge."

"You threaten me," said Cousrouf, quietly." What evil can you add to that already inflicted? I do not fear your threat, and I shall not feel humiliated at being led a prisoner into the citadel, where I once ruled your master, and where Mohammed Ali, the sarechsme by my grace, so often knelt in the dust before me. I have been vanquished in honorable warfare, and in a just cause; and though you, the victor, triumph over, I shall still remain, your lawful master!"

"Prove this to the people of Cairo; see whether you will be recognized as master there; whether those who formerly flattered you will now raise a finger to liberate you, or restore you to the throne. And when you find that they will not, then remember, Cousrouf Pacha-that, too, is a part of Mohammed Ali's revenge-had I slain you, all your sufferings would have been at an end! But you shall live and suffer for many a long year to come! For Cousrouf Pacha caused Mohammed Ali to suffer for long years. Then suffer, Cousrouf; and, let me tell you, from this hour I shall suffer no longer-from this hour my wounds are healed, for your wounds bleed. And now go to Cairo humiliated, covered with disgrace, the prisoner of Mohammed Ali!"

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