Изображения страниц

turned his fury first upon his master. Wherever they stood alone, the Turks and the Coulouglis have been threatened; wherever they have been united they have defended themselves, and again struck terror among their former slaves; but from the day when all power was vested in the hands of one, from the day when the French alliance made Abd-el-Kader a veritable Sultan, our ruin was certain. The Coulouglis of Tlemcen, of Medeah, of Mostaganem, of Mazagran, of . Mazouna, are all enslaved or banished; none remain but those of Milianah ; our turn cannot long be delayed. I especially have more reason for fear than any other, for my influence is dreaded by the Emir; he covets my fortune, and he has found a pretext in my brother's sojourn with the French.

“ Were I alone I should abandon all my possessions, leave my wife with her father, go to Algiers, drag my brother thence, and seek hospitality of Mehemet Ali, my father's old friend; but I have a beloved mother, the faithful widow of Omar Pasha; she alone binds me to this accursed country. I could have saved my family and my wealth ; but I was happy then ; I commanded like a Pasha, I was intoxicated with the flatteries of those who flattered at my expense.


[ocr errors]

Those who are now my enemies made a thousand protestations of devotion to me, and dissuaded me from my design. I did not then foresee, as I do now, the storm which threatens us.”

These presentiments were soon after realised. In the month of January, 1838, Omar was loaded with chains and brought on foot to Medeah, where the Emir then was. On coming into his presence the prisoner inquired the cause of his arrest. “Be thankful to God," said the Emir, “that my heart is compassionate, but for that compassion, thy head had fallen in expiation of thy crimes and those of thy brother. Not content with having oppressed the Musselmans, when thy unjust fathers governed the country; not content with having amassed riches by the spoil of the Arabs, you have forgotten your religion, you have lived in debauchery. One of you went among the Christians that he might return to enslave his country, while the other prepared the way

for the infidels. According to the text of the Holy Book your heads should fall and your goods become forfeit to the beytik; as I have said, thy life shall be safe on condition that thou deliver up all thy possessions, and the possessions of those that belong to thee; the slightest omission and thou art lost. Inform thy mother of my com

mands; woe to thee and to her if she attempt to elude them.”

Omar wrote to his mother, and the horseman bearing the Emir's orders proceeded at once to Milianah. Despite the remonstrances of the marabouts related to Omar, despite the supplications of his followers, the shrieks of despair of the mother, in contempt even of the strictest laws of Islamism, they penetrated into the houses occupied by the family; nothing was allowed to escape their infamous search. The women were brutally stript of their jewels in which they were decked, and exposed without a veil to the gaze and maltreatment of the Arabs, once their abject slaves. Two of the Emir's secretaries made out an inventory of the articles found, while the greedy eyes of the troopers peered every where for new trea

The jewellery and gold coin found in the house of Omar, was estimated at 400,000 francs. At the sight of these riches, which he needed in order to send Miloud-Ben-Arach as ambassador to Paris, the Emir was seized with astonishment; but Si-Embarek, the personal enemy of Omar, was not yet contented. He pretended that Jemna had withheld a treasure, of which she alone, and a negress devoted to her, knew the place of concealment, and he sent a letter from MohamedBen-Omar, found among the papers of Jemna, in which Mohamed-Ben-Omar asked for his father's ring, in order to purchase with the price of it a country house in Algiers. Excited by the desire to increase his resources, and unscrupulous as to what means he employed, the Emir granted Jemna permission to see her son held captive in Medeah. The poor mother, believing that the Emir's heart was touched with compassion, set out with all haste the same evening from Milianah, and arrived in Medeah the next morning in the confidence that her son was about to be restored to her sight. She was brought before the Emir. Her imposing stature, the prestige of her name and of her misfortunes, impressed upon the countenances of those present an expression of respect and composure. All were silent, awaiting with attention the issue of the interview. Abd-el-Kader first broke the silence : “ Thy two sons have incurred the penalty of death; one because he has become a Christian by dwelling among Christians; the other, because he has entered into negociations with the infidels. Their lives, their wives, their children, and all they possess, all have become, by law, the property of the State. Nevertheless, thou canst save the life of him who is my prisoner. The ring of the Pasha, their father, which we know thou hast still in thy possession, must be delivered to us, and thou must reveal the place where thou hast concealed this treasure unjustly acquired.”


“Oh! my Omar ! why didst thou not die in coming into the world !” exclaimed the unhappy Jemna. “Alas ! should I not have foreseen the wretched lot in store for thee, since thy birth was the signal of thy father's death! But thou, son of Maheddin, dost thou forget then that thy mother yet lives ? dost thou forget that thou hast wives ? dost thou forget that thou hast children ? Fearest thou not that God may take away the power which, for a while, he has placed in thy hands, and that He may punish thee in that which is dearest to thee, the abuse thou hast made of it? Behold me, son of Maheddin : yesterday I was the wife of the Pasha, before whom thy father and all the inhabitants of the kingdom of Algiers trembled; yesterday men sued for my protection ; to-day I implore the pity of one who was my subject. Reflect then on the uncertainty of all things here. Think of Zara thy mother, of Aicha thy daughter, and take pity on a poor woman who implores thee for her child. Take heed ere thou bring down upon thee a mother's curses, for they are fraught with misfortune.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »