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Mohammed Ali and His House By L. Muhlbach Characters: 25242

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

While the Mameluke beys, Ismail and Bardissi, were victorious at Cairo, L'Elfi Bey still lay with his followers at Nisibis. There he ruled, and there his Mamelukes robbed, plundered, and tyrannized over the inhabitants.

The governor, Courschid Pacha, was again firmly established in Alexandria, where he was assembling new forces, and preparing to march against Cairo and the Mamelukes, and also against Mohammed Ali and his Albanians and Armenians; he only awaited the sultan's decision. He had sent to Stamboul intelligence of all that had occurred-of Cousrouf's flight, and of his defeat and capture at Damietta.

"Who is now to be appointed viceroy?" This was the question to be decided at Stamboul.

"Do you command, O master, that our troops march against Cairo to drive out the Mamelukes, and reinstate Cousrouf as viceroy! Command, O master, and your servants will obey!"

While the Turks were awaiting an answer from Stamboul, affairs in Cairo were becoming more and more complicated, and law and order no longer reigned there. The Mamelukes were daily becoming more violent and overbearing. They roamed through the city in bands, plundering and burning, and the beys could no longer control them. Daily the sufferings of the people became greater, and their hatred of the lawless Mamelukes more intense.

Robbed and outraged as they were, they were, in addition, continually being called on to pay new taxes to their detested rulers.

The Mameluke beys, Bardissi and Ismail, need money, need it more than ever. But where are they to get it? The question is a perplexing, a tormenting one, and with dismay Bardissi submits it to his faithful friend and untiring adviser, the sarechsme, Mohammed Ali.

And it was Mohammed who continually advised the imposition of new taxes, and who was constantly engaged with Bardissi in devising new means of raising money; and the imposition of each new burden was the signal for a new cry of rage from the oppressed people. The soldiers, too, began to murmur again, and to loudly demand their long-withheld pay.

The Albanians and Armenians, subject to Mohammed Ali, were held by him in severe discipline. He did not allow his soldiers to make thieves and robbers of themselves. He threatened with instant death all who should be caught in the act. They, however, clamored all the more loudly for pay.

Mohammed listened to them quietly, and seemed to be touched by their complaints. "But," said he, sadly, "it does not rest with me to pay you, neither can I do so. I am poor myself; I have nothing to live on but my pay, and that is withheld from me also. I therefore have, unfortunately, nothing to give my soldiers. Only the chiefs, Ismail or Bardissi, can give you your pay."

His soldiers have understood him. They salute their sarechsme, go away, and say nothing.

Mohammed well knows where the swarm of soldiers that had stood before his house have now gone, led by their bim bashis.

They rush, their numbers increasing on the way, to the house where Bardissi resides. With loud cries they demand to speak with Bardissi himself.

He appears, and asks why they have come. The vestibule of the palace is already crowded with soldiers, and new masses are continually pouring into the court-yard. In reply to Bardissi's question, they all cry loudly: "We have come for our pay! We want money! We are hungry! We want our pay, our money!"

"Go back to your quarters, and remain there, quietly!" cries

Bardissi. "In two days you shall have your pay. Go!"

"We will wait no longer!" cries a bim bashi, and they all cry after him: "We want our money! We will not leave here until we are paid!"

They press farther and farther into the house, more and more fiercely demanding their pay. Suddenly, a loud, firm voice resounds from the court-yard: "What does this mean, soldiers? What are you doing here? How dare you force your way into the palace of the chief?"

A smile lights up Bardissi's countenance. This is his friend

Mohammed Ali. He will extricate him from his embarrassing position.

Yes, it is he, the sarechsme, at whose approach the men respectfully fall back and make room. He enters the palace and hastens to Bardissi.

"Oh, forgive me! I knew not that my soldiers had dared to come here. They also came to me and demanded their pay; I had none to give them, yet I had no idea they would go so far as to annoy you personally."

Bardissi makes no reply. He only looks at his friend, and grasps his hand warmly.

"I thank you, Mohammed, for having come."

"It is my duty, Bardissi," replies he, loud enough to be understood by all his soldiers. "Yes, it is the duty of the sarechsme to be identified with his soldiers; and if, impelled by their want, they went too far, I beg for their forgiveness; but I also beg that justice be done them; and their demands are just. They are in great want, for I have forbidden them to rob and plunder. They have long waited patiently for their pay. But I beg you to give it them now, Bardissi."

The soldiers who had heard all, cried loudly: "Long live our sarechsme! Long live Bardissi, our chief!"

"Believe me, soldiers, he will give you your pay!-Will you not,


"Yes, sarechsme, your soldiers shall receive their pay. I give you my word, they shall be paid to-morrow. Come to the citadel, to my defterdar to-morrow morning, and he will pay you."

"You have heard it, soldiers: you are to be paid to-morrow. And now go!"

But no one moved; they stood still, grumbling in low tones.

"What," cried the sarechsme, with sparkling eyes, "you dare to remain when I have told you to go! Do you distrust the promise of Osman Bey Bardissi, and of your general? Go, I tell you! You are to be paid to-morrow. Therefore, go and wait!"

They no longer dare to defy, and quietly withdraw.

Bardissi grasps his friend's hand again. "I thank you. You have freed me from much embarrassment; you have done me a great service. But I beg you to lend me your kindly assistance still further. Tell me where am I to get the money with which to pay the soldiers to- morrow?"

"To-morrow? Why trouble yourself about to-morrow? I will endeavor to keep the soldiers quiet for a few days, and, in the meanwhile, we will devise new plans for raising money. I know of one means that I have often thought of."

"Name it, my friend!"

"It is dangerous."

"Name it, nevertheless. No matter about the danger, provided I raise money."

"Well, then," said Mohammed, deliberately, "it seems unjust to me that our people should bear the burden of taxation alone! Why should not a tax be imposed on the Franks and Levantines also?"

"On the foreigner?" said Bardissi, with a start. "That has never been done, that I am aware of."

"Then let it be done now for the first time. They have been allowed to accumulate wealth here, without bearing any of the burdens of government."

"You are right: it should be done. My defterdar shall take the necessary steps at once. The Levantines and Franks shall be made to pay this very day, and your soldiers shall have the money."

Bardissi hastily departed to give the necessary instructions.

Mohammed Ali returned slowly to his house, a complacent smile on his countenance. "Only continue in your present course, and you will soon fall into the pit I have dug for you and yours. Proceed! Your new tax will create quite a sensation!"

He was right. The new tax did create a sensation.

Bardissi's officials flew from house to house, levying a contribution of five hundred sequins from each Frank and Levantine.

Their demands were met everywhere with violent opposition, and caused general dismay. All the consuls repaired to the citadel, to Bardissi, to protest, in the names of their respective countries, against this unexpected outrage. Bardissi turned a deaf ear to their protests and entreaties. He thought only of his empty coffers, and of the necessity of paying the soldiers on the following day. Nothing could induce him to retract his action. The collection of the tax was enforced, and the money extorted from the foreigners. The consuls, however, incensed at the outrage, and resolved not to submit to such treatment, left Cairo in a body, followed by their entire households, to repair to Alexandria to take up their residence there. But, during the night preceding their departure, the French consul had a long private conference with Mohammed Ali.

What passed at this interview no one knew. At daybreak Mohammed accompanied the consul to the door of his house, and, in taking leave of him, said in a low voice: "Only wait. The fruit is ripe and will soon fall. Tell Courschid Pacha I am working for him, and am still the sultan's faithful servant. Though it seem otherwise, I am still working for him. Be assured, I shall act promptly when the time for action comes."

On the following morning the defterdar gave the troops half their pay, the sum raised by the tax imposed on the foreigners not being sufficient to liquidate the whole amount. The soldiers, however, were not satisfied with receiving half their pay, and went away grumbling. This gave only temporary relief, and soon the whole army was dissatisfied, clamoring for pay and ripe for revolt.

New taxes had to be imposed, and the burden fell upon the hapless people. The tax-gatherers made their circuit again, and mercilessly collected the tax, in spite of the opposition and lamentations of the sorely-oppressed people. If they refused to pay, the amount was raised by selling their houses. The enraged, despairing people no longer grumbled, but rushed howling and crying in dense masses to the Mosque El-Ayar, declaring that they would rather die than longer endure such outrages.

The monster-rebellion-raises its head again, and the uproar of revolt rounds through all Cairo.

The cadis and sheiks hasten to the mosque to use their influence in tranquillizing the people, but in vain. The only response to their representations is, "We cannot, we will not pay more!"

The vast hall of the mosque resounds with their lamentations and cries of rage. Suddenly Mohammed Ali, followed by a few of his soldiers, appears on the threshold. In a loud voice he begs the people to disperse; in Bardissi's name he promises that the collection of the new tax shall not be enforced. He had gone to Bardissi and entreated him to torment the people no longer, and Bardissi had yielded to his entreaties.

"Repair quietly to your homes, and fear no longer for your property. I interceded for you, and Bardissi gave me his solemn promise that the tax should not be enforced."

The spacious mosque resounds with shouts of delight. The people cry, "Long live Mohammed Ali!" All rush forward to grasp his hand and assure him of their friendship and devotion.

Mohammed feels that he has won the people by his shrewd course. Those who meet him in the streets salute him with reverence and devotion, and call down blessings on his head. When they meet the Mameluke beys, they look down and knit their brows; they have made themselves odious to the people, and are hourly becoming more and more detested by them. The thunder-clouds are gathering rapidly on the heads of the Mameluke beys. They see the coming storm in the angry looks of those who approach them; they feel it in the solitude that surrounds them. Curses are invoked upon their heads by the people, and not blessings, as upon Mohammed Ali's head.

Mohammed quietly prepares for the future; nothing is left to accident. No unlooked-for event must break in upon his plans, and destroy him with the rest. Let the fruit fall when ripe, and fall so deep into the abyss that no hand can pluck it thence!

The consuls have left Cairo, but after a few days the French consul returns secretly to the city, accompanied by the chief secretary of the governor, Courschid Pacha; at night and disguised, they glide stealthily through the streets of Cairo. They repair to the house of Mohammed Ali, and remain there in earnest and eager conversation with the sarechsme throughout the entire night. And again, as on the occasion of a former conference, the consul takes his departure before the dawn of day.

The governor's secretary remains with Mohammed. He still has a document to present to him, and Mohammed's eyes sparkle as he reads it.

"I have but one further request to make of his excellency."

"What is it, sarechsme? I am instructed to comply with your wishes in all things."

"I only wish to read the firman to Cousrouf myself."

"Let it be as you desire, sare

chsme. If you ask this as a reward for

your faithful services, it is a petty one indeed; you are, however,

I believe, soon to receive a much greater one. When Courschid enters

Cairo, he will appoint you a pacha of two tails."

Mohammed hastily averted his face, and made no reply. No one should see that the intelligence made him rejoice.

The fruit is ripe and ready to fall; the time for action has come.

On the following morning, a body of soldiers marches out and surrounds the quarter of the city in which the Mameluke beys reside.

Bardissi and Ismail have both left the citadel, and now dwell in the city. There they can live more comfortably and conveniently than up in the citadel; and the Mameluke beys are in the habit of attaching more importance to their comfort than the rest of the world. The quarter in which they reside is completely surrounded by soldiers. They do not notice it, however; these grand gentlemen are taking their ease in their palaces.

Bardissi is in his harem. He has consoled himself for Sitta Nefysseh's cruelty and coldness; the beautiful Georgian and Circassian slaves that throng his harem well know how to make him forget the past with their songs and dances, their sweet words and soft looks.

There he lies on his cushions, gazing dreamily at their dancing.

Suddenly a shot is heard, then a second follows, and a ball strikes the wall of his house.

Bardissi bounds from his cushions, and the dance is at an end. He rushes out into the court-yard to learn the cause of the firing. The street and square are filled with soldiers, and on the opposite side of the square, in front of the arsenal, whole batteries are in position, as though a battle were to be fought.

"What does this mean? Who has led these troops against us? Are those not Albanians and Armenians?"

A loud, a fearful cry resounds from Bardissi's lips: "Those are Mohammed Ali's troops, and it is he who is leading them against us. It is he who has planned my destruction. Then let us also prepare for battle ourselves. They shall see that Bardissi is not so easily trapped. Let us defend ourselves in this house as in a fortress. Close all the doors and gates. Quick, ye soldiers, prepare for battle ! Ye cannoneers, do your duty!"

He calls to the cannoneers who stand by the guns crowning the wall that surrounds his house. But the cannoneers refuse to obey him.

Another loud cry escapes Bardissi's lips. Now he understands Mohammed's action, and knows why the troops were relieved, others sent to his palace a few days before, and why a new body-guard had been assigned him.

These are Mohammed's men, and they now refuse obedience to Bardissi.

He now comprehends Mohammed's whole scheme, and his heart is filled with anguish and immeasurable wrath.

"Alas! Nothing is left me but to flee. Come, my Mamelukes. Load the

dromedaries with the treasure; let the women enter the carriages.

Quick, we must act with the speed of lightning. You, my faithful

Youssouf, you will stand by me as you stood by Mourad."

"I will fight beside you while life lasts."

All is now activity. The dromedaries are laden with treasure, with chests of gold and silver coins, with jewelry, Persian carpets, furs, and silken garments. The women enter the closed carriages; the eunuchs take their place beside them. Now Bardissi mounts his war- horse, beside him his best and truest friend, Youssouf, and many others of his faithful followers.

The Mamelukes now throw open the gates, and with uplifted swords, ready for the conflict, sally forth from the court-yard.

The soldiers who have surrounded the palace see with wonder the gates open, Bardissi and his followers as they rush forth, the heavily-laden dromedaries, and the carriages filled with women. The conflict begins, a fierce conflict, the musketry rattles, and carries death into the ranks of both.

Erect on his war-horse Bardissi leads the van. He fights his way through, his sword mows down the enemy like the scythe of death. Youssouf, his faithful kachef, rides beside him. Like Bardissi, he fights like a lion, and hews with his trusty sword a pathway through the enemy's ranks. But suddenly a well-aimed ball strikes him, he reels in his saddle, and falls with a low moan to the earth, while Bardissi and his men press on.

He succeeds in fighting his way out of the city. Onward the whole train flies toward Gheezeh.

Bardissi is wounded; his right hand bleeds, and blood is streaming down his cheeks. Bardissi is wounded, yet he lives, and is saved. On they press, and now they are no longer followed.

The soldiers have still much to do in Cairo. Let Bardissi flee with his richly-laden dromedaries; let him depart from Cairo with his Mamelukes; but let him return no more.

He draws rein now that the city is behind him; he looks back, and a tear trickles down his cheek and mingles with his blood.

For whom was this tear?

He looks back toward Cairo, and murmurs: "O Mohammed, that you have betrayed me; this is bitter!"

He then turns his horse and they proceed in their flight.-Yes, there is still much work to be done in Cairo. It is not only Bardissi who has to be fought and driven out; there is Ismail, the chief of all the Mamelukes, and all the other beys. All this lordly game is to be chased and driven to bay to-day, and then there are rich spoils to be gathered. Bardissi has hardly quitted his house when the soldiers rush into it, and begin to plunder and destroy after a fashion that can hardly be surpassed by the Mamelukes themselves. The soldiers intend to pay themselves for that which Bardissi owes them.

And they do pay themselves. Bardissi possesses not only this but other houses in Cairo, and the soldiers plunder them all, leaving nothing behind but the bare walls.

They then fall upon Ismail Bey; but he, too, succeeds in cutting his way through the enemy. With him escape almost all the Mameluke beys with their followers. They flee far out of Cairo, into the open country.

At Gheezeh, on the verge of the desert, the Mamelukes lay encamped on the following day, and there the beys were assembled around their hero, Bardissi, in a sad consultation.

True, they are safe, yet they feel that their rule in Cairo is at an end, to be restored no more.

"At an end is the rule of the Mamelukes!" cries the sarechsme, Mohammed Ali, triumphantly. In the night he sends out messengers requesting the cadis and sheiks to come to him, as he has important intelligence to communicate, and a firman sent to him by the grand- sultan to read to them. The cadis and sheiks hasten to obey his call.

In Mohammed's apartment they find Courschid Pacha'a chief secretary, who reads the grand-sultan's firman to them in a loud voice.

The firman appointed Courschid Pacha Viceroy of Egypt and Governor of Cairo, and commanded all the authorities to obey and serve with humility and devotion the representative of their grand master, who would arrive in Cairo on the following day, to take possession of the fortress and receive the oaths of the officials.

The cadis and sheiks express themselves ready to obey the new governor in all things, and express the hope that with his highness's entrance into Cairo a new era of peace may dawn for their bleeding land.

They then withdraw to proclaim what has taken place to the people at the mosque on the following morning, and to exhort them to be peaceful and obedient.

Mohammed, however, repaired to the citadel, accompanied by a bim bashi and two servants, who lead two asses that seemed to be equipped for a journey. On arriving at the citadel, Mohammed left the others in the court-yard, and ascended alone to the apartment where Cousrouf was confined. He was asleep when Mohammed entered. He stood still on the threshold for a moment, gazing at his prisoner.

"Wake up, Cousrouf! wake up, thou Viceroy of Egypt, wake up!"

Cousrouf starts and stares at him.

"What is it? Who calls me?"

"Your devoted servant, the sarechsme by your grace, Mohammed Ali, calls you."

"I know by your voice that you have come to kill me!" cried

Cousrouf, springing to his feet.

Mohammed slowly shook his head.

"Had I desired your death, you would long since have stood before Allah's throne, to render an account of your crimes. No, Cousrouf, I have not come to kill you, but to read to you a message from the grand-sultan at Stamboul."

Cousrouf bowed his head.

"You mean my condemnation. Were it an acknowledgment of my right and a restoration to authority, Mohammed Ali would not have come to announce it. Read!"

The sarechsme unfolded the paper, and read in a loud voice the firman which deposed Cousrouf from the office of viceroy.

"For he has performed its duties badly, and not proved worthy of our favor. He has been vanquished by rebels, and has sought safety in flight, instead of dying in the fulfilment of his duty. Humiliated and disgraced, he has been brought a prisoner to the palace in which he once ruled. Cousrouf is entirely unworthy of the honors conferred on him, and is hereby deposed from his office and dignities, and forbidden ever to present himself before the grand-sultan, or to show himself at Stamboul in the holy empire of the grand-sultan. He is banished and exiled from the empire, and his name must never be mentioned in the hearing of the grand-sultan. He is to be conveyed to the fort built on the island of Imbro, there to remain until he dies. Such are the commands of the grand-sultan, his gracious master."

When Mohammed finishes reading, profound silence ensues. Cousrouf utters no word in reply. He stands there, motionless, pale as a corpse, staring at Mohammed. He seems to be still listening to the words he has heard, to the fearful announcement of his fall and disgrace.

"To Imbro you go," said Mohammed Ali, after a pause. "Do you remember Imbro?"

No word comes from Cousrouf's pale lips; he slowly shakes his head.

"Imbro is a little island, opposite Cavalla, and for the selection of this place you are indebted to me, Cousrouf. Do you know why I selected it? From the windows of your prison you can see Cavalla, the bay, and the Ear of Bucephalus. From there you can see the sea and the coast, can see the place where on that night the poor boy lay on the shore, also the place where Masa sank beneath the waves. You shall see this place, Cousrouf. I know your gaze will often turn in that direction, and I know you will think of me when you look at the coast, Cousrouf. Your life shall be an everlasting remorse. This is my revenge, Cousrouf. Throughout the remainder of your life your recollections shall torment you, and you shall gaze upon the place where Masa died, and where you made of the innocent boy a hard- hearted man. At Imbro you shall live, Cousrouf, and I shall take care that you sometimes hear of me there, and learn what has become of the boy who lay stretched out on the shore, his heart torn with anguish, while you caused that which he held dearest on earth to be sunk in the cold grave of the waves. This is our last meeting, yet you shall often hear of me, and this I tell you in advance: Cousrouf Pacha, where you stood in your power and magnificence, there shall Mohammed Ali stand. He will, however, be more powerful than you were, and no one shall deal with him as he has dealt with you. No one shall depose him from his place, be assured of this, and remember it in your solitude at Imbro. Bear my greeting to Cavalla, to the yellow shore, and to Masa's deep, blue grave. And now I have nothing more to say to you. I shall send up the bim bashi who is to conduct you to Alexandria, and accompany you on the ship to your home at Imbro. Farewell!"

He turns and hastily leaves the room, without looking again at

Cousrouf, who stands there motionless and deathly pale.

On ascending and unlocking the door of Cousrouf's prison, the bim bashi sees him stretched out on the floor, pale and motionless. Is he dead? Has the terrible blow destroyed him?

It were well for Cousrouf if he were dead! But no; he lives! He had only for the moment found relief in insensibility from the consciousness of humiliation and disgrace.

He returns to consciousness, is led down to the court-yard, mounted on his ass, and conducted by the bim bashi and the slaves to Alexandria. From there he is transported in the vessel, that lies in readiness, across the sea to Imbro, to the citadel, from whose windows he can see Cavalla, the water, and the place where he buried Masa beneath the cold, blue waves.

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