Donovan Pasha and Some People of Egypt - Volume 4

Donovan Pasha and Some People of Egypt - Volume 4

DONOVAN PASHA AND SOME PEOPLE OF EGYPT - VOLUME 4. GILBERT PARKER Volume 4. A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED THE FLOWER OF THE FLOCK THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN Looking from the minaret the Two could see far off the Pyramids of Ghizeh and Sakkara the wells of Helouan the Mokattam Hills the tombs of the Caliphs the Khedive's palace at distant Abbasiyeh. Nearer by the life of the city was spread out. Little green oases of palms emerged from the noisy desert of white stone and plaster. The roofs of the houses turned into gardens and promenades made of the huge superficial city one broken irregular pavement. Minarets of mosques stood up like giant lamp-posts along these vast meandering streets. Shiftless housewives lolled with unkempt hair on the housetops; women of the harem looked out of the little mushrabieh panels in the clattering narrow bazaars. Just at their feet was a mosque--one of the thousand nameless mosques of Cairo. It was the season of Ramadan and a Friday the Sunday of the Mahommedan--the Ghimah. The "Two" were Donovan Pasha then English Secretary to the Khedive generally known as "Little Dicky Donovan" and Captain Renshaw of the American Consulate. There was no man in Egypt of so much importance as Donovan Pasha. It was an importance which could neither be bought nor sold. Presently Dicky touched the arm of his companion. "There it comes!" he said. His friend followed the nod of Dicky's head and saw passing slowly through a street below a funeral procession. Near a hundred blind men preceded the bier chanting the death-phrases. The bier was covered by a faded Persian shawl and it was carried by the poorest of the fellaheen though in the crowd following were many richly attired merchants of the bazaars. On a cart laden with bread and rice two fellaheen stood and handed or tossed out food to the crowd--token of a death in high places. Vast numbers of people rambled behind chanting and a few women near the bier tore their garments put dust on their heads and kept crying: "Salem ala ahali!--Remember us to our friends!" Walking immediately behind the bier was one conspicuous figure and there was a space around him which none invaded. He was dressed in white like an Arabian Mahommedan and he wore the green turban of one who has been the pilgrimage to Mecca. At sight of him Dicky straightened himself with a little jerk and his tongue clicked with satisfaction. "Isn't he though--isn't he?" he said after a moment. His lips pressed together curled in with a trick they had when he was thinking hard planning things. The other forbore to question. The notable figure had instantly arrested his attention and held it until it passed from view. "Isn't he though Yankee?" Dicky repeated and pressed a knuckle into the other's waistcoat. "Isn't he what?" "Isn't he bully--in your own language?" "In figure; but I couldn't see his face distinctly." "You'll see that presently. You could cut a whole Egyptian Ministry out of that face and have enough left for an American president or the head of the Salvation Army. In all the years I've spent here I've never seen one that could compare with him in nature character and force. A few like him in Egypt and there'd be no need for the money-barbers of Europe." "He seems an ooster here--you know him?" "Do I!" Dicky paused and squinted up at the tall Southerner. "What do you suppose I brought you out from your Consulate for to see--the view from Ebn Mahmoud? And you call yourself a cute Yankee?" "I'm no more a Yankee than you are as I've told you before" answered the American with a touch of impatience yet smilingly. "I'm from South Carolina the first State that seceded." "Anyhow I'm going to call you Yankee to keep you nicely disguised. This is the land of disguises." "Then we did not come out to see the view?" the other drawled. There was a quickening of the eye a drooping of the lid which betrayed a sudden interest a sense of adventure. Dicky laid his head back and laughed noiselessly. "My dear Renshaw with all Europe worrying Ismail with France in the butler's pantry and England at the front door do the bowab and the sarraf go out to take air on the housetops and watch the sun set on the Pyramids and make a rainbow of the desert? I am the bowab and the sarraf the man-of-all- work the Jack-of-all-trades the 'confidential' to the Oriental spendthrift. Am I a dog to bay the moon--have I the soul of a tourist from Liverpool or Poughkeepsie?" The lanky Southerner gripped his arm. "There's a hunting song of the South" he said "and the last line is 'The hound that never tires.' You are that Donovan Pasha--" "I am 'little Dicky Donovan' so they say" interrupted the other. "You are the weight that steadies things in this shaky Egypt. You are you and you've brought me out here because there's work of some kind to do and because--" "And because you're an American and we speak the same language." "And our Consulate is all right if needed whatever it is. You've played a square game in Egypt. You're the only man in office who hasn't got rich out of her and--" "I'm not in office." "You're the power behind the throne you're--" "I'm helpless--worse than helpless Yankee. I've spent years of my life here. I've tried to be of some use and play a good game for England; and keep a conscience too but it's been no real good. I've only staved off the crash. I'm helpless now. That's why I'm here." He leaned forward and looked out of the minaret and down towards the great locked gates of the empty mosque. Renshaw put his hand on Dicky's shoulder. "It's the man in white yonder you're after?" Dicky nodded. "It was no use as long as she lived. But she's dead--her face was under that old Persian shawl--and I'm going to try it on." "Try what on?" "Last night I heard she was sick. I heard at noon to-day that she was gone; and then I got you to come out and see the view!" "What are you going to do with him?" "Make him come back." "From where?" "From the native quarter and the bazaars. He was for years in Abdin Palace." "What do you want him for?" "It's a little gamble for Egypt. There's no man in Egypt Ismail loves and fears so much--" "Except little Dicky Donovan!" "That's all twaddle. There's no man Ismail fears so much because he's the idol of the cafes and the bazaars. He's the Egyptian in Egypt to-day. You talk about me? Why I'm the foreigner the Turk the robber the man that holds the lash over Egypt. I'd go like a wisp of straw if there was an uprising." "Will there be an uprising?" The Southerner's fingers moved as though they were feeling a pistol. "As sure as that pyramid stands. Everything depends on the kind of uprising. I want one kind. There may be another." "That's what you are here for?" "Exactly." "Who is he?" "Wait." "What is his story?" "She was." He nodded towards the funeral procession. "Who was she?" "She was a slave." Then after a pause "She was a genius too. She saw what was in him. She was waiting--but death couldn't wait so . . . Every thing depends. What she asked him to do he'll do." "But if she didn't ask?" "That's it. She was sick only seventeen hours--sick unto death. If she didn't ask he may come my way." Again Dicky leaned out of the minaret and looked down towards the gates of the mosque where the old gatekeeper lounged half-asleep. The noise of the-procession had died away almost had then revived and from beyond the gates of the mosque could be heard the cry of the mourners: "Salem ala ahali!" There came a knocking and the old porter rose up shuffled to the great gates and opened. For a moment he barred the way but when the bearers pointed to the figure in white he stepped aside and salaamed low. "He is stone-deaf and hasn't heard or he'd have let her in fast enough" said Dicky. "It's a new thing for a woman to be of importance in an Oriental country" said Renshaw. "Ah that's it! That's where her power was. She with him could do anything. He with her could have done anything. . . . Stand back there where you can't be seen--quick" added Dicky hurriedly. They both drew into a corner. "I'm afraid it was too late. He saw me" added Dicky. "I'm afraid he did" said Renshaw. "Never mind. It's all in the day's work. He and I are all right. The only danger would lie in the crowd discovering us in this holy spot where the Muezzin calls to prayer and giving us what for before he could interfere." "I'm going down from this 'holy spot'" said Renshaw and suited the action to the word. "Me too Yankee" said Dicky and they came halfway down the tower. From this point they watched the burial still well above the heads of the vast crowd through which the sweetmeat and sherbet sellers ran calling their wares and jangling their brass cups. "What is his name?" said Renshaw. "Abdalla." "Hers?" "Noor-ala-Noor." "What does that mean?" "Light from the Light." II The burial was over. Hundreds had touched the coffin taking a last farewell. The blind men had made a circle round the grave hiding the last act of ritual from the multitude. The needful leaves the graceful pebbles had been deposited the myrtle blooms and flowers had been thrown and rice dates bread meat and silver pieces were scattered among the people. Some poor men came near to the chief mourner. "Behold effendi may our souls be thy sacrifice and may God give coolness to thine eyes speak to us by the will of God!" For a moment the white-robed figure stood looking at them in silence; then he raised his hand and motioned towards the high pulpit which was almost underneath the place where Dicky and Renshaw stood. Going over he mounted the steps and the people followed and crowded upon the pulpit. "A nice jack-pot that" said Renshaw as he scanned the upturned faces through the opening in the wall. "A pretty one-eyed lot." "Shows how they love their country. Their eyes were put out by their mothers when they were babes to avoid conscription. . . . Listen Yankee: Egypt is talking. Now we'll see!" Dicky's lips were pressed tight together and he stroked his faint moustache with a thumb-nail meditatively. His eyes were not on the speaker but on the distant sky the Mokattam Hills and the forts Napoleon had built there. He was listening intently to Abdalla's high clear voice which rang through the courts of the ruined mosque. "In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful children of Egypt listen. Me ye have known years without number and ye know that I am of you as ye are of me. Our feet are in the same shoes we gather from the same date-palm of the same goolah we drink. My father's father--now in the bosom of God praise be to God!--builded this mosque; and my father whose soul abides in peace with God he cherished it till evil days came upon this land. 'Be your gifts to this mosque neither of silver nor copper but of tears and prayers' said my father Ebn Abdalla ere he unrolled his green turban and wound himself in it for his winding-sheet. 'Though it be till the Karadh-gatherers return yet shall ye replace nor stone nor piece of wood save in the gates thereof till good days come once more and the infidel and the Turk be driven from the land.' Thus spake my father. . . ." There came a stir and a murmuring among the crowd and cries of "Allahu Akbar!" "Peace peace!" urged the figure in white. "Nay make no noise. This is the house of the dead of one who hath seen God. . . . 'Nothing shall be repaired save the gates of the mosque of Ebn Mahmoud the mosque of my father's father' so said my father. Also said he 'And one shall stand at the gates and watch though the walls crumble away till the day when the land shall again be our land and the chains of the stranger be forged in every doorway.' . . . But no ye shall not lift up your voices in anger. This is the abode of peace and the mosque is my mosque and the dead my dead." "The dead is our dead effendi--may God give thee everlasting years!" called a blind man from the crowd. Up in the tower Dicky had listened intently and as the speech proceeded his features contracted; once he gripped the arm of Renshaw. "It's coming on to blow" he said in the pause made by the blind man's interruption. "There'll be shipwreck somewhere." "Ye know the way by which I came" continued Abdalla loudly. "Nothing is hid from you. I came near to the person of the Prince whom God make wise while yet the stars of his life give light! In the palace of Abdin none was preferred before me. I was much in the sun and mine eyes were dazzled. Yet in season I spake the truth and for you I laboured. But not as one hath a life to give and seeks to give it. For the dazzle that was in mine eyes hid from me the fulness of your trials. But an end there was to these things. She came to the palace a slave-Noor-ala-Noor. . . . Nay nay be silent still my brothers. Her soul was the soul of one born free. On her lips was wisdom. In her heart was truth like a flaming sword. To the Prince she spoke not as a slave to a slave but in high level terms. He would have married her but her life lay in the hollow of her hand and the hand was a hand to open and shut according as the soul willed. She was ready to close it so that none save Allah might open it again. Then in anger the Prince would have given her to his bowab at the gates or to the Nile after the manner of a Turk or a Persian tyrant--may God purge him of his loathsomeness . . . !" He paused as though choking with passion and grief and waved a hand over the crowd in agitated command. "Here's the old sore open at last--which way now?" said Dicky in a whisper. "It's the toss of a penny where he'll pull up. As I thought . . . 'Sh!" he added as Renshaw was about to speak. Abdalla continued. "Then did I stretch forth my hand and because I loved her a slave with the freedom of God in her soul and on her face I said 'Come with me' and behold! she came without a word for our souls spake to each other as it was in the olden world ere the hearts of men were darkened. I an Egyptian of a despised and down-trodden land where all men save the rich are slaves and the rich go in the fear of their lives; she a woman from afar of that ancient tribe who conquered Egypt long ago--we went forth from the palace alone and penniless. He the Prince dared not follow to do me harm for my father's father ye knew and my father ye knew and me ye knew since I came into the world and in all that we had ye shared while yet we had to give; yea and he feared ye. We lived among ye poor as ye are poor yet rich for that Egypt was no poorer because of us." He waved his hand as though to still the storm he was raising. . . . "If ye call aloud I will drive ye from this place of peace this garden of her who was called Light from the Light. It hath been so until yesterday when God stooped and drew the veil from her face and she dropped the garment of life and fled from the world. . . . Go go hence" he added his voice thick with sorrow. "But ere ye go answer me as ye have souls that desire God and the joys of Paradise will ye follow where I go when I come to call ye forth? Will ye obey if I command?" "By the will of God thou hast purchased our hearts we will do thy will for ever" was the answer of the throng. "Go then bring down the infidels that have stood in the minaret above where the Muezzin calls to prayer;" sharply called Abdalla and waved an arm towards the tower where Dicky and Renshaw were. An oath broke from the lips of the Southerner; but Dicky smiled. "He's done it in style" he said. "Come along." He bounded down the steps to the doorway before the crowd had blocked the way. "They might toss us out of that minaret" he added as they both pushed their way into the open. "You take too many risks effendi" he called up to Abdalla in French as excited Arabs laid hands upon them and were shaken off. "Call away these fools!" he added coolly to the motionless figure watching from the pulpit stairs. Cries of "Kill-kill the infidels!" resounded on all sides; but Dicky called up again to Abdalla. "Stop this nonsense effendi." Then without awaiting an answer he shouted to the crowd: "I am Donovan Pasha. Touch me and you touch Ismail. I haven't come to spy but to sorrow with you for Noor-ala-Noor whose soul is with God praise be to God and may God give her spirit to you! I have come to weep for him in whom greatness speaks; I have come for love of Abdalla the Egyptian. . . . Is it a sin to stand apart in silence and to weep unseen? Was it a sin against the Moslem faith that in this minaret I prayed God to comfort Abdalla grandson of Ebn Mahmoud Egyptian of the Egyptians? Was it not I who held Ismail's hand when he--being in an anger--would have scoured the bazaars with his horsemen for Abdalla and Noor-ala-Noor? This is known to Abdalla whom God preserve and exalt. Is not Abdalla friend to Donovan Pasha?" Dicky was known to hundreds present. There was not a merchant from the bazaars but had had reason to appreciate his presence either by friendly gossip over a cup of coffee or by biting remarks in Arabic when they lied to him or by the sweep of his stick over the mastaba and through the chattels of some vile-mouthed pedlar who insulted English ladies whom he was escorting through the bazaar. They knew his face his tongue and the weight and style of his arm; and though they would cheerfully have seen him the sacrifice of the Jehad to the cry of Alldhu Akbar! they respected him for himself and they feared him because he was near to the person of Ismail. He was the more impressive because in the midst of wealth and splendour he remained poor: he had more than once bought turquoises and opals and horses and saddlery which he paid for in instalments like any little merchant. Those therefore who knew him were well inclined to leave him alone and those who did not know him were impressed by his speech. If it was true that he was friend to Abdalla then his fate was in the hand of God not theirs. They all had heard of little Donovan Pasha whom Ismail counted only less than Gordon Pasha the mad Englishman who emptied his pocket for an old servant gave his coat to a beggar and rode in the desert so fast that no Arab could overtake him. "Call off your terriers effendi" said Dicky again in French; for Renshaw was restive under the hands that were laid on his arm and the naboots that threatened him. "My friend here is American. He stands for the United States in Egypt." Abdalla had not moved a muscle during the disturbance or during Dicky's speech. He seemed but the impassive spectator though his silence and the look in his eyes were ominous. It would appear as though he waited to see whether the Englishman and his friend could free themselves from danger. If they could then it was God's will; if they could not Malaish! Dicky understood. In this he read Abdalla like a parchment and though he had occasion to be resentful he kept his nerves and his tongue in an equable mood. He knew that Abdalla would speak now. The Egyptian raised his hand. "In the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful go your ways" he said loudly. "It is as Donovan Pasha says he stayed the hand of Ismail for my sake. Noor-ala-Noor the Light from the Light saw into his heart and it was the honest heart of a fool. And these are the words of the Koran That the fool is one whom God has made His temple for a season thereafter withdrawing. None shall injure the temple. Were not your hearts bitter against him and when he spoke did ye not soften? He hath no inheritance of Paradise but God shall blot him out in His own time. Bismillah! God cool his resting-place in that day. Donovan Pasha's hand is for Egypt not against her. We are brothers though the friendship of man is like the shade of the acacia. Yet while the friendship lives it lives. When God wills it to die it dies. . . ." He waved his hand towards the gateway and came slowly down the steep ...