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   Chapter 16 CONCLUSION.

Mohammed Ali and His House By L. Muhlbach Characters: 20222

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


THE citadel presents a scene of great animation; its apartments, especially those in which the viceroy's eons are to reside, are richly adorned and hung with flowers. All the doors are thrown open, and a number of richly-attired female slaves are standing in the hall at the head of the grand stairway which is covered with costly carpets from Damascus.

The citadel has put on festive attire in honor of the wife and sons of the viceroy Mohammed Ali, who are expected to arrive to-day.

The people are repairing in vast numbers to Boulak on the shore of the Nile, where the viceroy is to receive his family, and it is whispered among them that she who has resided in the palace of the Esbekieh is not his first, but a second wife. No one has seen her, but very beautiful she must be, else her husband would not guard her so closely. No one has seen her, but a woman certainly dwells there in the harem; its windows are lighted up at night, and eunuchs stand guard outside; veiled slaves have also been seen going in and out of the palace. Yes, the harem has an occupant, but it is only the second wife who lives there; the first is to arrive to-day with her sons from Alexandria!

The people repair in vast numbers to Boulak, to be present at the reunion of the family of their viceroy, who has already made himself beloved by his subjects. He throws money among the poor when he drives through Cairo. He is just, and punishes the guilty with perfect impartiality, the fellah and courtier alike.

Mohammed, accompanied by his officers, has ridden down to Boulak, where two landings have been prepared, and richly adorned with carpets, flowers, and overhanging silken awnings. Here, at the landing where the viceroy and his generals are waiting, will the sons, and at the other, where the women stand, will the wife arrive.

The viceroy, erect in his stirrups, looks down the river, and he is the first to discover the red flags that appear above the horizon. The sight of the father is keener than that of the curious. A smile lights up his countenance, and he turns to Hassan, who stands beside him. "They are coming, Hassan; my sons are coming!"

"Yes, they are coming! The princes are coming!" cry the people. The splendid vessel approaches nearer and nearer; the flags flutter gayly in the sunshine; and now Mohammed sees the three figures, standing on the deck, waving white handkerchiefs in their outstretched hands. These are his sons. How changed the three boys seem to the father! These are no longer boys, they are now youths. It is, however, not strange that they have altered in appearance; great changes take place in five years.

The vessel lands, and his sons spring quickly to the shore. The viceroy, Mohammed Ali, had determined to make the meeting a theatrical spectacle for the people. The people love such spectacles, and they were to be permitted to look into the sanctuary of his domestic life as through a glass door. Such had been his purpose. But at the moment, all this is forgotten, and it is not the viceroy, dismounting in a stately manner from his horse to receive his sons, his first servants; it is only the father who springs with a single bound from his saddle, encircles his three sons in one embrace, presses them to his heart, and kisses them tenderly.

The people shout with delight, "Long live our viceroy and the princes!" The guns of the citadel thunder forth a greeting, and announce to the people that the viceroy no longer rules alone, but that his sons now rule with him. The welfare of the land is assured, for the existence of the ruling house is assured.

The young princes mount the horses held in readiness for them, and ride into the city bide their father. The thunder of the cannon resounds continuously, shout after shout rends the air, the band of the regiment of soldiers that had been drawn up at the landing to receive the princes, joins in the acclaim with merry strains of music, and the regiment falls into line, and marches behind the viceroy and his suite. Dense masses of people, Turks and Armenians, Copts and Jews, Arabs and fellahs, throng the streets through which they pass. On the imposing procession moves toward the citadel.

At the same time a splendid debahieh has landed at the second place; it is the wife of Mohammed Ali, who stands on the deck. No soldiers, and in fact no men, await her on the shore. A wide space about the landing is kept free by the eunuchs, who drive the curious back with threatening gestures. Hundreds of women stand on either side of the landing-place in long rows, their heads enveloped in long white veils that fall down over the splendid dresses glittering with silver embroidery.

Mohammed has commanded that all the women of Cairo should go down to Boulak to meet his wife Ada, and obey they must, they well know, for he is certain to punish disobedience to his commands. They were also to tender her presents upon their arrival at the palace.

She stands on the deck, gazing around with indifference at the spectacle before her. She is looking for him only-for her husband. But he is nowhere to be seen. He does not receive her. It would probably not become the great ruler to welcome his wife before the world. No one must perceive that the viceroy is also a husband, a man!

Yes, she has already heard of this: the heart must not be laid bare to the world, for the world ridicules it.

This is why Mohammed is not there. She draws her veil more closely about her, and, conducted by the eunuchs, descends slowly the stairway, strewed with flowers, to the landing-place, where the women press forward to greet her.

"Welcome, Sitta Ada! Blessed be your coming! Allah's blessings upon you, Sitta Ada!"

Hundreds of voices repeat the words. She is glad to escape these noisy greetings by entering the gilded coach that now drives up to the landing-place. The equipage moves on slowly, followed by the procession of women who are to accompany her to the citadel.

It is well that the curtains are drawn over the windows of the carriage, and that no one can see the tears that burst from Sitta Ada's eyes, or hear the sighs that escape her breast.

"Oh that I had remained in Cavalla! This cold splendor alarms me! Would that Mohammed had received me quietly, pressed me to his heart and said, `Welcome, Ada-welcome to my heart and home!"

Is she welcome? He rejoices in his sons, now growing up to manhood and soon to accompany him to battle and become heroes. In his joy over his sons, he has forgotten the wife who is now approaching the citadel with her brilliant suite. He is first reminded of her presence by the thunder of the guns that announce her arrival at the citadel. The reception must, however, be completed. He has arranged every thing with the master of ceremonies, who is to conduct his queen into the grand audience-chamber to the throne that stands on a scaffold under a purple canopy.

Ada's heart trembles as she approaches it, and her thoughts are with the house in Cavalla. Oh that Mohammed Ali had returned to live with her there! "Departed are all the sweets of domestic happiness for poor Ada!" a voice whispers in her heart.

The women now come forward, four at a time, and with loud congratulations lay the presents at her feet, the golden dishes, the jewelled buckles, the gold-inworked cloths, and every thing that delights the heart of woman. With kindly words Ada thanks them for their gifts, hardly realizing what they are. She thanks Allah when the affair is concluded, and the master of ceremonies approaches, and with a deferential bearing requests her to descend from the throne, and walk to the door that leads to the inner apartments. It alarms her to walk between the long rows of women who bow low as she passes. But behind the door are the private apartments, and there she will be alone. This thought cheers her as she walks on unconscious that a number of female slaves are following her to the private apartments. Those who fill such exalted stations as that of the wife of the Viceroy of Egypt, know no solitude, not even in their private apartments. The slaves now gather around her, fall on their knees, and swear to serve her faithfully, and her first maid asks if her gracious mistress will now retire to the toilet-chamber to change her dress. She dares not refuse, and allows herself to be conducted thither, where the most splendid garments lie in readiness for her. She makes no selection, but permits her women to dress her as they think proper. This is at last concluded, and one of them now announces that she may enter the private apartments, where his highness the viceroy is to receive her.

Her heart throbs wildly, like the heart of a young girl, as she enters the apartment. At the entrance she stands still, timidly. Alas! he is not yet there-the room is empty. The viceroy makes no haste to greet his wife.

The door now opens, and Mohammed Ali enters.

Ah! she would hardly have recognized him; to her he seems quite changed. His countenance is so radiant, his bearing so proud, so splendid his gold-embroidered uniform, so gracious the smile with which he advances to meet her, so gracious the manner in which he extends his hand and smiles on her.-Ada is conscious that it is the viceroy, the good friend, who stands before her; but the husband it is not.

"Welcome, dear Ada!" he says, in kindly tones. Ah! she is familiar with these loveless tones. "Welcome, dear Ada; I rejoice heartily to see you again after this long separation."

She takes his hand, presses it in her own, and looks at him earnestly.

"Yes, after so long a separation; do you know how long we have been separated? Do you feel it in your heart?"

"I well know bow long, Ada. We have been separated five years," he replies, with a kindly smile. "You see five years have effected great changes."

"Yes," murmurs she, releasing his hand. "They have brought about great changes. I see it, Mohammed."

"But, dear Ada, my heart and my affection for you are unchanged," he says, gently. "I shall ever honor you,

Ada, as my first wife, as the mother of my first-born sons. Yes, as my first wife."

She bows her head. She understands the tone with which Mohammed had pronounced that fearful word. Yes, she understands it, and bows her head in humility. And what would opposition avail her? The law of the prophet allows the man to have several wives. Love is fleeting, and its ardor soon passes away after marriage. Friendship is the successor of love, and men say this is happiness.

The women sigh, and bow their heads in silence.

What would it avail Ada to rise in arms against Mohammed's words,

"My first wife"?

"Yes, Ada, you will ever remain my first wife, the honored mother of my sons. You will ever remain my friend."

Yes, that was the word. She closes her eyes and shudders.

"'Tis well. Your friend, Mohammed! I will not, however, honor you as my friend, but as my lord, and as the man I have loved alone and best on earth!"

He gently encircles her neck with his arm, and impresses a kiss on her forehead. Such a kiss as makes the heart of the woman who loves writhe in anguish.

Now he begins to speak to her, in gay tones, of his handsome, manly sons.

"They shall come to greet their mother; they are waiting in the next room."

He walks hastily to the door, opens it, and the three boys enter, each holding a small package wrapped in paper in his hand.

"What do you bring me, boys!" asks Mohammed, seating himself on a divan, and calling them to his side.

"What do we bring you, father?" says the eldest, Ibrahim. "We have brought you keepsakes from Cavalla, and with them we wish to show you that we have learned something, and have endeavored to imitate you. The merchant, Lion, has often told me how daring a boatman you were, and I determined to learn to manage a boat and defy the treacherous waves, also."

The viceroy regards his son with a radiant smile. The boy's sparkling eyes gladden his heart and inspires it with high hopes.

"I rejoice in you, Ibrahim, and expect you to become a hero," cries

Mohammed. "Continue. You were resolved to defy the waves-"

"Yes, father, and I did learn to make the waves obey me, and I became the best boatman in Praousta. I also learned to dive, and no diver could surpass me. To prove what I say, I have brought you this keepsake. I brought it up from the depths of the sea; it was tied up in a bag. I dragged it to the shore and opened it. And what do you suppose it contained, father? Only think, a skeleton! As these were the first things I had taken out of the deep as a diver I have brought you something out of the bag as a keepsake. Here it is, I- lay it at your feet."

"From the depths of the sea? " repeated the viceroy, with pallid cheeks. "Tell me, Ibrahim, were you diving off the shore of Praousta?"

"Yes, father. You know the shore is steep, and the sea deep, close in to the beach. There I dived and found the bag, with which I swam to the shore. The bag contained bones, and also that which I have brought you."

"A bag that contained a skeleton?" repeated Mohammed, with quivering lips. "And what is it you have brought me?"

"A tress of hair-a tress of long, black hair. It must have been a woman that was cast into the sea in the bag."

Mohammed does not take the package from his son's hand, and Ibrahim lays it at his feet and looks at him with astonishment. He is completely changed; his cheeks are pallid and his eyes dim. Ada also observes this change with dismay, and calls her sons to her side. Aroused by her voice, Mohammed awakens from his stupor, and waves his hand as if to ward off some spectre.

"And what have you brought me, Ismail?-and you, Toussoun?"

"We have also brought you keepsakes from Cavalla," they reply. "We endeavored to make of ourselves what you were when a boy. We were told that you had been a famous climber, that no rock was too high, and the entrance to no cave too narrow, for you. And we discovered a large cave down by the shore, near Praousta. It was necessary to creep through a long, narrow passage to get into it, and what do you think we found there? It seemed as if people had lived there-there were cushions and all sorts of things scattered around on the floor. Oh, we often enjoyed ourselves in the cave, singing songs, and eating fruit we had taken there with us. However, when we visited the cave for the last time, we determined, each of us, to bring you a keepsake from it, and here are the things we have brought. I bring you a beautiful little cup I found there."

"And I bring you a piece of cloth-a beautiful gold-embroidered cuffei which I found in the cave. It is very handsome, only there are a few spots, as though blood had dropped on it."

And, like Ibrahim, the two boys also lay the packages they had brought at their father's feet. He sits there for a moment as motionless and pale as a marble statue, and then motions with his hand toward the door. He cannot speak, he only motions to them to leave the room, and the boys hasten to their mother's side in alarm. Ada takes them by the hand and leaves the room with them.

Mohammed is now alone with his sons' offerings.

He stares down at them for a while, and then takes up the package

Ibrahim had laid at his feet.

He tears it open, and there lies Masa's long, black hair. A cry escapes his lips! It is not the viceroy, not the man, who cries out. It is the death-cry of his first love!

He presses the hair to his lips, and two tears trickle slowly down his cheeks. His gaze fastens on his Masa's hair in a long, painful glance.

He had often kissed these tresses while they clung to her beloved head. He now kisses them for the last time, and then conceals them in his bosom.

He bends down again and takes up the presents of his other sons.

He remembers the cup well. Masa had often drunk out of it.

He kisses the rim of the cup, the place where Masa's crimson lips had touched; he then carefully places it on the cushion beside him.

He now takes up the third present-the gold-embroidered cuffei he had purchased for Masa from the merchant, Lion.

She wore it around her neck for the last time when he pressed her to his heart and took leave of her for a short time, as he thought. She wore it when he left her that night, and when he returned she was gone, and he did not see her again until her death-hour.

He holds the cloth up before him, and sees the dark-red spots-her blood! She had struggled with her captor, and he had injured her shoulder, where the cloth rested, with the point of his dagger! He can tell this by the incision in the cloth where the spots of blood are.

This is Masa's blood, shed for him! He kisses the spot, and binds the cloth around his neck-the cloth she has worn, the cloth inscribed with her blood! A holy remembrance of her, he will never part with it. It shall protect him from the rude wind of the world.

He lays his hand on Masa's tresses again; he looks at the cup, and sits there motionless, absorbed in thought, for a long time.

His whole past rises up before him. He is once more at home, on the rude rock where he spent his youth.

He sees every thing once more; sees, also, the pale face of his

Osman, of his dear friend.

He is dead-his sons have told him that Osman is dead.

"It is well for him that he is, he suffered much," he murmurs, in low tones. "I, also, have suffered much. And yet I have also experienced much happiness, and shall probably do so in the future, also," he continues, in louder tones. "Sink down behind me, past! the future is mine. And now be strong, Mohammed; arise and be a man! The past is at an end! Masa, you have to-day sent me a greeting through my sons. Farewell! Now I belong to the present and to the future. Farewell!"

He rises, walks with firm footstep through the apartment, and enters the room where Ada and his sons are awaiting him.

"Come, my sons, I will show you my capital, the most beautiful of all cities-I will show you Cairo. Come!"

He takes his sons by the hand, and, alas! he forgets the poor woman who is regarding him tenderly, and down whose cheeks two tears slowly trickle as the door closes behind him.

Mohammed leads his sons through the long suite of splendid apartments, which they regard with wonder, into the grand reception- chamber, and steps out with them upon the balcony. The beautiful city of Cairo now lies spread out before them. Over there glitters the Nile, like a silver ribbon, and beyond tower aloft the wondrous forms of the great Pyramids of Gheezeh.

A cry of delight escapes the lips of the boys. "Oh, how beautiful, how glorious, father!"

"Yes, beautiful is Cairo; beautiful is Egypt, my sons. All that you see spread out before you is mine. I am the ruler of Egypt; you shall be its rulers after me, and our house shall become great and glorious. This I swear, by Allah! I will not, like my predecessors, be deposed from my throne and descend the hill on which stands the proud citadel of Cairo. I swear, by Allah, that my house shall continue to rule over Egypt, and it shall be inscribed in the books of history: 'Mohammed Ali was the first free viceroy of Egypt, and his sons succeeded him on the throne.' Swear to me, my sons, that you will one day become good and just rulers over Egypt!"

"We swear that we will, father! We will one day become good and just rulers over Egypt!" the three boys reply, as with one voice, their eyes sparkling, their countenances radiant with the light of high resolve.

"You have heard it, Allah!" cries the father, in solemn tones, his head bowed down, his right hand uplifted. "I will firmly establish the rule of my house, and my sons have sworn to become good and just rulers. Then be thou, also, our gracious ruler, and with thy great prophet, Mohammed, look down with favor upon the four human beings who stand humbly in thy presence! Not the vassal of the grand-sultan at Stamboul, but the free, independent viceroy, will I be, and after me shall my sons rule-this I swear! Seal thou my resolve with thy blessing, O Allah!"

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