A bottle of brandy was sent for, and handed to the sailor, who put it to his mouth, and the quantity he took of it before he removed the bottle to recover his breath, fully convinced the pacha that Mustapha’s assertions were true.
“Come, that’s not so bad,” said the sailor, putting the bottle down between his legs; “and now I’ll be as good as my word, and I’ll spin old Billy a yarn as long as the main-top bowling.”
“What sayeth the Giaour?” interrupted the pacha.
“That he is about to lay at your highness’s feet the wonderful events of his life, and trusts that his face will be whitened before he quits your sublime presence. Frank, you may proceed.”
“To lie till I’m black in the face—well, since you wish it; but, old chap, my name arn’t Frank. It happens to be Bill; howsomever, it warn’t a bad guess for a Turk; and now I’m here, I’d just like to ax you a question. We had a bit of a hargument the other day, when I was in a frigate up the Dardanelles, as to what your religion might be. Jack Soames said that you warn’t Christians, but that if you were, you could only be Catholics; but I don’t know how he could know anything about it, seeing that he had not been more than seven weeks on board of a man-of-war. What may you be—if I may make so bold as to ax the question?”
“What does he say?” inquired the pacha, impatiently.
“He says,” interrupted Mustapha, “that he was not so fortunate as to be born in the country of the true believers, but in an island full of fog and mist, where the sun never shines, and the cold is so intense, that the water from heaven is hard and cold as a flint.”
“That accounts for their not drinking it. Mashallah! God is great! Let him proceed.”
“The pacha desires me to say that there is but one God, and Mahomet is his Prophet; and begs that you will go on with your story.”
“Never heard of the chap—never mind—here’s saw wood.”
I was born at Shields, and bred to the sea, served my time out of that port, and got a berth on board a small vessel fitted out from Liverpool for the slave trade. We made the coast, unstowed our beads, spirits, and gunpowder, and very soon had a cargo on board; but the day after we sailed for the Havannah, the dysentery broke out among the niggers—no wonder, seeing how they were stowed, poor devils, head and tail, like pilchards in a cask. We opened the hatches, and brought part of them on deck, but it was of no use, they died like rotten sheep, and we tossed overboard about thirty a day. Many others, who were alive, jumped overboard, and we were followed by a shoal of sharks, splashing, and darting, and diving, and tearing the bodies, yet warm, and revelling in the hot and bloody water. At last they were all gone, and we turned back to the coast to get a fresh supply. We were within a day’s sail of the land, when we saw two boats on our weather bow: they made signals to us, and we found them to be full of men; we hove to, and took them on board, and then it was that we discovered that they had belonged to a French schooner, in the same trade, which had started a plank, and had gone down like a shot, with all the niggers in the hold.