Page images
PDF
EPUB

What became of the Master and Crew of the Speronare I know not. They were but Weakly Creatures; and I conjecture were sold off into private Hands and sent up the country. Now, although I was past the Middle Age, and indeed drifting into years, I was still of Unbowed Stature and great Strength, and a Personable Fellow, hardened in the furnace of Danger and Adventure. This led to my being reserved from the public Slave-Market for the Dey of Algiers' own use. Woe is me, again! The Distinction profited me little, for it merely amounted to my being made Stroke-oar of the third row of the Dey's State-barge, or Galleasse. Imagine me now, in a Tunic and Drawers of Scarlet Serge, and a White Turban round my Head to keep me from Sun-stroke, chained by the Ancles to a bench, and with an Iron Collar round my Neck, from which another Chain passed to a Bar running fore and aft the whole length of the Galleasse. Between the benches of Rowers runs a narrow Planking; and up and down this continually patrols a great Tawny Ruffian of a Moorish Boatswain, armed with a Whip of Rhinoceros Hide, which, with a Will, he lays on to the Shoulders of those who do not tug hard enough at the Oar. Miserable and fallen as was my state, I did yet manage to evade the crowning Degradation of Stripes; for, being a Man used to the Sea, and full of Courageous Activity, I got through my toil so as to make it impossible for my Superiors to find fault with me; and besides, in a few words of Lingua Franca that I picked up, I gave the Boatswain to understand that if ever he hit me with his Rhinoceros Thong, 'I should take the earliest opportunity of Strangling bim. As for our Food, 'twas mainly Beans, and in the morning a Mess of boiled Maize they call Couscoussou, with some villanous Rank Butter, melted, poured over it. And sometimes the Carcass of a Sheep that had died of Disease was given to us. But whatever we had was eaten on our benches, and the Cook of the Galleasse passed up and down the planking to serve out the Rations. We Ate on our benches, we Slept on our benches, and some of us Died on our benches. There were Ninety-two Christian Slaves on board the Dey's Galleasse, and Twelve on my Bench. Being Stroke-oar, I was spared the continual contemplation of a Man's back in front of me, which other Slaves have told me makes you so mad that you want to Bite him; but 'twas scarcely less Vexatious to have behind, as I had, a Chattering Fellow of a Frenchman, for ever jabbering forth his complaints, and not bearing them with the surly Dignity of a Briton. I could almost hear this fellow grimace; and he was never tired of bemoaning his bygone happy state as a Hairdresser's Journey man in the Rue St. Honoré at Paris. “Why did a Vain Ambition prompt me to journey from Marseilles to Constantinople?” cried be about Fifty times a day. “Why did I rely on the protection of my Wife's Cousin, wlio gave me recommendations to his brother, Cook-in-Chief to the Ambassador of France at the court of the Antiqne Byzantium (l'antique Byzance)? Where is my Wife? Where is my Wife's Cousin? They are drinking the wine of Ramonneau; they are dancing at the Barriers. Ob, my Cocotte ! where is my Cocotte ?" “Hang your Cocotte!" I used to cry out in a rage. “'Tis bad enough to be mewed up here like a Bear in a pit, without being worried by a confounded Barber's Clerk !"

I had been Tugging at the Oar full Six Months, when a change came over my lamentable Lot. The Dey of Algiers was at this time one Mahomet Bassa, a very Bold, Fierce, Fighting Man, but of the meanest Extraction, and one, indeed, that had been no more than a common Soldier, from which he had sprung to be, by turns, Oda-Bashee or Lieutenant, Bullock-Bashee or Captain, Tiah-Bashee or Colonel, and Aga or General. For among these strange people every valiant and aspiring Soldier, -I wish 'twas so in England, -though taken yesterday from the Plough, may be considered as Heir-Apparent to the Throne. Nor are they ashamed of the obscurity of their birth. This Mahomet Bassa, in a dispute he once had with the Spanish Consul, said: “My mother sold Sheep's Trotters, and my father Neat's Tongues; but they would have been ashamed to expose for sale on their stalls a Tongue so worthless as thine.” Mahomet Bassa was, like most of the Turks, a man of Pleasure, and his Harem was furnished with an extraordinary number of choice Beauties.

His Highness (as he is called), bappening to single me out from the rest of the Slaves on board the Galleasse, and being told that I was English—for equally in hopes of Bettering my Condition, and for the purpose of keeping Secret my Employment with his Eminence, I had avowed myself to be of that Nation-ordered me to be released from my Chains, and brought before him at the Divan. Through bis Interpreter, a cunning Rogue from Corfu, who spoke most Languages indifferently well, he asked me who I was, and how I came to be aboard the Speronare. I answered, conveniently mixing fact with fiction, that I had been a Captain by Sea and Land in the Service of the King of Eogland; that I had earned a good deal of Prize Money; had retired from Active Duties, being now nigh upon Fifty years of Age, and was taking my pleasure by voyaging in a part of Europe with wbich I had hitherto been little acquainted. This Answer seemed to satisfy him pretty well; although he was very curious to know whether I had any Kindred in the Island of Malta, or any foregathering among the Knights. Fortunately for me the Interpreter, to whom I had given a hint of ultimate Reward, deposed that I could not speak twenty words of Maltese (which is a kind of Bastard Italian); and he told me that if it had been discovered that I was in any way Connected with the Order, I should surely have been Impaled; the Dey being then in a towering Rage with the Knights, one of whose Commanders had just captured one of his finest Brigantines, and Dressed Ship, as he humorously put it, by hanging every Man-Jack of the Crew at the Yard-arm, and the Algerine Captain at the Mizen. The Dey then asked me if I had any Friends who I thought would pay my Ransom, the which he placed at the Moderate Computation of Four Thousand Gold Achmedies (about Fifteen Hundred Pounds sterling). I answered, that I thought I could raise about half that Sum, if I were allowed to communicate with one Monsieur Foscue, a Banker at Marseilles, upon whom I had or rather my Captors had-a Letter of Credit, which they had taken from me. But by Ill-luck this Letter of Credit could not be found. The Captain and Crew of the Rover that took the Speronare were all well bastinadoed about it, but no Letter was forthcoming; and I am more inclined to think that it was thrown, in sheer Ignorance, overboard, than that it was Embezzled. However, as 'twas not to be discovered, the Dey began to look upon me as an Impostor; but I earnestly represented to the Interpreter that, if I had time to write to Monsieur Foscue, all would be right. This I had his Highness's gracious permission to do, and meanwhile was to remain a Slave; but was not sent back to the Galleys. Being a Strong Fellow, and professing to know something about Gardening-Lord help me! I had never touched a Spade ten times in my Life-I was sent to work in his Highness's Gardens at the Castle of Sitteet-ako-Leet. As for my Letter, I penned it in as good French as I could muster, begging Monsieur Foscue to communicate at once with his Eminence, telling him how I had been captured, and that

my Letter of Credit had been taken from me, and of the Sorry Plight I was now in. I was given to understand that from Six to Nine Months must pass by before I could expect an Answer; for that Safe Conducts to Christian Packets between Algiers and Marseilles were only granted thrice a year, and the last was but just departed. Whereupon I resigned myself to my Captivity, hoping for Better Days.

The Head Gardener of the Dey was an old Renegado German, named Baupwitz, who tried hard to convert me to the Mussulman Faith. But in addition to my stanch Attachment to the Protestant Religion, I could see that the State and Condition of the few Renegados in Algiers was very mean and miserable, and that they were despised alike by Turks, Moors, Arabs, Bedoweens, and Jews. And, indeed, what good had Baupwitz done himself by turning Paynim? Thus much I put to him

I plainly; at which the Old Man was angered, and for some days used me very spitefully; when the Dey, coming to the Castle, took it into his head to have me brought back to Algiers, and enrolled among his Musicians as a Player upon the Cymbals. I declare that although able to troll out a Stave now and then, I could not so much as Whistle“God save the King;" but I managed to clash my two Saucepan-Lids or Cymbals together and to make a Noise, which is all the Turks care for, they having no proper Ear for Music. As one of his Highness's Musicians, I was dressed very grandly, with a monstrous Turban all covered with Gold Spangles and Silk Tassels; but I had a Collar of Silver riveted round my Neck, and Silver Shackles round my Ancles, and Silver Manacles round my Wrists; and was still a Slave.

The rest of the Musicians were either Black Negroes or Cophtic Christians, and they used me with Decent Civility; nor did the Master of the Musicians—otherwise a most cruel Moor-go out of his way to flout,

a

a

[ocr errors]

much less smite me with his Rattan. If he had dared but to lay one. Stripe upon me, I would have sprang upon the Wretch and dashed out his Brains with my Cymbals, even if I had been put upon the Pale for it half an hour afterwards.

Lodged in the Guard-house at the Dey's Palace, with pretty abun. dant Rations, and some few Piastres daily to buy Wine (I being a Frank) and Tobacco, and pretty well treated by the Colologlies, or Moorish Soldiers, I did not pass such a very bad time of it; and when off Duty, had liberty to go about the City and Suburbs pretty much as I chose. And I was a hundred times better off than the Moslem Slaves are at Malta.

These Algerines are an Uncouth, Savage People; and the Turkish Despotism has quite destroyed that security and Liberty which of old gave birth and encouragement to Learning : hence the knowledge of Medicine, Philosophy, and the Mathematics, which once so flourished among the Arabs, is now almost entirely lost. The Children of the Moors and Turks are sent to School at about Six years old, where they are taught to Read and Write for the value of about a Penny a week of our Money. Instead of Paper or a Slate, each boy has a piece of thin square Board, slightly daubed over with Whiting'; on this he makes his Letters, which may be wiped off or renewed at pleasure. Haviog made some progress in the Koran, he is initiated into the Ceremonies and Mysteries of the Mahometan Religion; and when he has distinguished himself in any of these branches of Learning, he is Richly Dressed, mounted on a Horse finely Caparisoned, and paraded, amidst the Huzzas of bis School-fellows, through the Streets; while his Friends and Relations assemble to congratulate bis Parents, and load him with Toys and Sweetmeats. And this Observance answers to our Western Rite of Confirmation. But after being three or four years at School, the Boys are put 'Prentice to Trades or enrolled in the Army, where they very speedily forget all they have learnt.

Though such bold Sailors, the Algerines are very despicable as Navigators. Their chief Astronomer, Muley Hamet Ben Daoud, when I was there, who superintended and regulated the Hours of Prayer by the Moon and Stars, had not the skill to make a Sun-dial; and in Navigation they cannot get beyond Pricking of a Chart, and distinguishing the Eight principal Points of the Compass. Even Chemistry, which was once the favourite Science of these people, is at present only applied to the Distilling of a little Rose-water. The Physicians chiefly study the Spanish Translation of Dioscorides (that was a Learned Leech in Olden Times); but the Figures of the plants and Animals are more consulted than the Descriptions : yet are these Knaves naturally Subtle and Ingenious ; wanting nothing but Application and Patronage to cultivate and improve their Faculties. They are for the most part Predestinarians, and pay little regard to Physic, either leaving the Disorder to contend with Nature, or making use of Charms and Incantations. They, liowever, resort

[ocr errors]

a

a

to the Hammam, or Hot Bagnio (a great Sweating-bath, and a sotereign Remedy for most Distempers), and have a few Specifics in general use. Thus, in Pleurisy and the Rheumatics they make several Punctures on the part affected with a Red-hot Needle; and into simple Gunshot Wounds they pour Fresh Butter almost boiling hot. The Prickly Pear roasted in Ashes is applied to Bruises, Swellings, and Inflammations ;

and a dram or two of the Round Birth wort is esteemed the best remedy in the world for the Choler. But few Compound Medicines; only, for that dreadful scourge the Plague (from which Lord deliver all Men not being Heathens !), they commonly use a Mixture of Myrrh, Saffron, Aloes, and Syrup of Myrtle-berries, - which does not hinder 'em from dying like Sheep with the Rot.

There are no Public Clocks here; those contrivances, with Bells, being held an Impious A ping of Providence. And the only way you have of telling the Time is by the Fellows up in the Minarets calling 'em to Prayers. Some of the rich Agas have Watches, bought or stolen ont of Europe; but they are usually spoilt by the Women of the Harem playing with 'em. The Dey's principal Wife, Zoražde Khanum, is said to have boiled a large Gold Chronometer, made by Silvain of Paris, with Cream and Sweet Almonds. Yet does a remnant of their Ancestors' old skill in Arithmetic and Algebra linger among 'em; for whereas not One in Twenty Thousand can do an Equation (and Captain Blokes taught me, and I have since forgotten How), yet the Merchants are frequently very dexterous in Reckoning by Memory, and have also a singular method of Numeration, by putting their hands into each other's Sleeves, and touching one another with this or that Finger, or a particular Joint, each standing for a determined Sum or Number. Thus, without ere moving their lips,—and your Mussulman has a wholesome horror of squandering Words,—they conclude Bargains of the Greatest Value.

None of the Women think themselves completely Adorned till they have tinged the Lashes and the edges of their Eyelids with the powder of Lead-Ore. This they do by dipping a Bodkin of the thickness of a Quill into the Powder, and dragging it under the Eyelids. This gives their Eyes a Sooty colour, but is thought to add a Wonderful Grace to their Complexions. And was not this that which Jezebel did in the Ancient Time ?* The Old Custom of plighting their Troth by drinking out of each other's Hand is the only Ceremony used by the Alyerines at their Marriages. The Bridegroom may put away his Wife whenever he pleases, upon the forfeiture of the Dowry he has settled upon her; but he cannot afterwards take her again until she has been Re-married and Divorced from another Man. After all, the Wives are only held as a better class of Servants, that when their Toil is over become Toys. The greater part of the Moorish Women would be esteemed Beauties even in

* 2 Kings ix. 30.

« EelmineJätka »