Owing to her unwearied kindness and attention, I soon recovered, and before I was aware that I was to be her husband I courted her by signs, and all the little attentions that could be suggested by gratitude and love. As soon as I was supposed to be sufficiently recovered I was led into a large circle of the islanders, to be formally admitted into their society. A venerable old man made a speech, which I presume was not a very good one from its extreme length, and then several men laid hold of me, and throwing me on the ground, face downwards, sat astride on me, and commenced running needles into the upper part of my thighs. The pain was excessive, but as all the islanders were tattooed about the loins, I presumed it was an operation that I must submit to, and I bore it with fortitude.
* * * * *
“And pray what is that tattooing?”
“Tattooing, may it please your highness, is puncturing the skin with needles or sharp points—and then rubbing Indian ink or gun-powder into the wounds. This leaves an indelible mark of a deep blue tint. All the islanders in those seas practise it, and very often the figures that are drawn are very beautiful.”
“Mashallah! How wonderful is God! I should like to see it,” rejoined the pacha.
“Allah forbid,” replied the renegade, “that I should expose my person to your highness. I know my duty better.”
“Yes, but I must see it, yaha bibi, my friend!” continued the pacha, impatiently; “never mind your person. Come—obey my orders.”
The renegade was a little at a nonplus, as he never had undergone the operation which he had described. Fortunately for the support of his veracity, it happened that during one of his piratical excursions, in an idle fit, he had permitted one of his companions to tattoo a small mermaid on his arm.
“Min Allah! God forbid,” rejoined the renegade; “my life is at the disposal of your highness, and I had sooner that you should take it, than I would affront your august eyes with the exposure in question; fortunately I can gratify your highness’s curiosity without offending decency—as, after they had finished the operation I was describing, they made the figure of their most respected deity upon my arm.” The renegade then pulled up his sleeve, and showed the figure of a mermaid, with a curling tail, a looking-glass in one hand and a comb in the other. “Here your highness will perceive a specimen of their rude art. This is a representation of their goddess, Bo-gee. In one hand she holds an iron rake, with which she tattoos those who are good, and the mark serves as a passport when they apply for admittance into the regions of bliss. In the other, she brandishes a hot iron plate, with which she brands those who are sentenced to be punished for their sins.”
“Allah Karim—God is merciful! And why has she a fish’s tail?” inquired the pacha.
“The people I am describing, inhabit a cluster of islands, and it is to enable her to swim from one to the other, as her presence may be required.”