“No,” replied Mustapha, “you must remain in custody; but, as on this occasion she may be of the greatest assistance to you, you may send for her. They have indeed a talent! As the young crocodile, from instinct, runs into the Nile as soon as it bursts its shell, so does woman, from her nature, plunge into deceit, before even her tongue can give utterance to the lies which her fertile imagination has already conceived.”
And with this handsome compliment to the sex, Mustapha gave his final orders and retired.
Whether the unfortunate man, thus accused of treason, derived any benefit from being permitted to “retain counsel,” will be shown by the following story, which he told to the pacha when summoned on the ensuing day.
That your highness should wish for an explanation of the very doubtful language which you overheard last night, I am not surprised; but I trust you will acknowledge, when I have finished my narrative, that I was fully justified in the expressions which I made use of. I am by birth (as my dress denotes) a Fellah of this country, but I was not always so poor as I am now. My father was the possessor of many camels, which he let out for hire to the merchants of the different caravans which annually leave this city. When he died, I came into possession of his property, and the good-will of those whom he had most faithfully served. The consequence was, that I had full employ, my camels were always engaged, and, as I invariably accompanied them that they might not be ill-treated, I have several times been to Mecca, as this ragged green turban will testify. My life was one of alternate difficulty and enjoyment. I returned to my wife and children with delight after my journeys of suffering and privation, and fully appreciated the value of my home from the short time that my occupation would permit me to remain there. I worked hard and became rich.
It was during a painful march through the Desert with one of the caravans, that a favourite she-camel foaled. At first it was my intention to leave the young one to its fate, as my camels had already suffered much; but, on examination, the creature showed such strength and symmetry that I resolved to bring it up. I therefore divided half of one of the loads between the other camels, and tied the foal upon the one which I had partly relieved for the purpose. We arrived safely at Cairo; and, as the little animal grew up, I had more than ever reason to be satisfied that I had saved its life. All good judges considered it a prodigy of beauty and strength, and prophesied that it would some day be selected as the holy camel, to carry the Koran in the pilgrimage to Mecca. And so it did happen about five years afterwards, during which interval I accompanied the caravans as before, and each year added to my wealth.
My camel had by this time arrived to his full perfection; he stood nearly three feet higher than any other; and, when the caravan was preparing, I led him to the sheiks, and offered him as a candidate for the honour. They would have accepted him immediately, had it not been for a Maribout, who, for some reason or another, desired them not to employ him, asserting that the caravan would be unlucky if my camel was the bearer of the holy Koran.