The Garden of Allah eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 736 pages of information about The Garden of Allah.
by one, dressed in every variety of poor costume, each one looking anxiously around to see what the others were like, each one carrying a mean yellow or black bag or a carefully-tied bundle.  On the wharf stood a Zouave, in tremendous red trousers and a fez, among great heaps of dull brown woollen rugs.  And as the recruits came hesitatingly along he stopped them with a sharp word, examined the tickets they held out, gave each one a rug, and pointed to the gangway that led from the wharf to the vessel.  Domini, then leaning over the rail of the upper deck, had noticed the different expressions with which the recruits looked at the Zouave.  To all of them he was a phenomenon, a mystery of Africa and of the new life for which they were embarking.  He stood there impudently and indifferently among the woollen rugs, his red fez pushed well back on his short, black hair cut en brosse, his bronzed face twisted into a grimace of fiery contempt, throwing, with his big and muscular arms, rug after rug to the anxious young peasants who filed before him.  They all gazed at his legs in the billowing red trousers; some like children regarding a Jack-in-the-box which had just sprung up into view, others like ignorant, but superstitious, people who had unexpectedly come upon a shrine by the wayside.  One or two seemed disposed to laugh nervously, as the very stupid laugh at anything they see for the first time.  But fear seized them.  They refrained convulsively and shambled on to the gangway, looking sideways, like fowls, and holding their rugs awkwardly to their breasts with their dirty, red hands.

To Domini there was something pitiful in the sight of all these lads, uprooted from their homes in France, stumbling helplessly on board this ship that was to convey them to Africa.  They crowded together.  Their poor bundles and bags jostled one against the other.  With their clumsy boots they trod on each other’s feet.  And yet all were lonely strangers.  No two in the mob seemed to be acquaintances.  And every lad, each in his different way, was furtively on the defensive, uneasily wondering whether some misfortune might not presently come to him from one of these unknown neighbours.

A few of the recruits, as they came on board, looked up at Domini as she leant over the rail; and in all the different coloured and shaped eyes she thought she read a similar dread and nervous hope that things might turn out pretty well for them in the new existence that had to be faced.  The Zouave, wholly careless or unconscious of the fact that he was an incarnation of Africa to these raw peasants, who had never before stirred beyond the provinces where they were born, went on taking the tickets, and tossing the woollen rugs to the passing figures, and pointing ferociously to the gangway.  He got very tired of his task towards the end, and showed his fatigue to the latest comers, shoving their rugs into their arms with brusque violence.  And when at length the wharf was bare

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The Garden of Allah from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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