As this man was considered to be a prophet, the sheiks were afraid, and would not give a decided answer. Irritated at the Maribout’s interference, I reviled him; he raised a hue and cry against me; and, being joined by the populace, I was nearly killed. As I hastened away, the wretch threw some sand after me, crying out, “Thus shall the caravan perish from the judgment of heaven, if that cursed camel is permitted to carry the holy word of the prophet.” The consequence was, that an inferior camel was selected, and I was disappointed. But on the ensuing year the Maribout was not at Cairo; and, as there was no animal equal to mine in beauty, it was chosen by the sheiks without a dissentient voice.
I hastened home to my wife, overjoyed with my good fortune, which I hoped would bring a blessing upon my house. She was equally delighted, and my beautiful camel seemed also to be aware of the honour to which he was destined, as he repaid our caresses, curving and twisting his long neck, and laying his head upon our shoulders.
The caravan assembled: it was one of the largest which for many years had quitted Cairo, amounting in all to eighteen thousand camels. You may imagine my pride when, as the procession passed through the streets, I pointed out to my wife the splendid animal, with his bridle studded with jewels and gold, led by the holy sheiks in their green robes, carrying on his back the chest which contained the law of our prophet, looking proudly on each side of him as he walked along, accompanied by bands of music, and the loud chorus of the singing men and women.
As on the ensuing day the caravan was to form outside of the town, I returned home to my family, that I might have the last of their company, having left my other camels, who were hired by the pilgrims, in charge of an assistant who accompanied me in my journeys. The next morning I bade adieu to my wife and children; and was quitting the house, when my youngest child, who was about two years old, called to me, and begged me to return one moment, and give her a farewell caress. As I lifted her in my arms, she, as usual, put her hand into the pocket of my loose jacket to search, as I thought, for the fruit that I usually brought home for her when I returned from the bazaar; but there was none there: and having replaced her in the arms of her mother, I hastened away that I might not be too late at my post. Your highness is aware that we do not march one following another, as most caravans do, but in one straight line abreast. The necessary arrangement occupies the whole day previous to the commencement of our journey, which takes place immediately after the sun goes down. We set off that evening, and after a march of two nights, arrived at Adjeroid, where we remained three days, to procure our supplies of water from Suez, and to refresh the animals, previous to our forced march over the desert of El Tyh.
The last day of our repose, as I was smoking my pipe, with my camels kneeling down around me, I perceived a herie coming from the direction of Cairo, at a very swift pace; it passed by me like a flash of lightning, but still I had sufficient time to recognise in its rider the Maribout who had prophesied evil if my camel was employed to carry the Koran on the pilgrimage of the year before.