‘Let him stay,’ responded Yusuf; ‘his time will come soon enough.’
Indulgence to children was the rule, and there was an easy good-nature about the race, which made them ready to defer the storm, and acquiesce in the poor little fellow remaining for another evening with that last remnant of his home to whom he always reverted at nightfall.
He held trembling by Arthur till all were gone, then looked about in terror, and required to be assured that no one was coming to take him away.
‘They shall not,’ he cried. ’Arthur, you will not leave me alone? They are all gone—Mamma, and Estelle, and la bonne, and Laurent, and my uncle, and all, and you will not go.’
‘Not now, not to-night, my dear little mannie,’ said Arthur, tears in his eyes for the first time throughout these misfortunes.
‘Not now! No, never!’ said the boy hugging him almost to choking. ’That naughty Ben Kader said they had sold you for a slave, and you were going away; but I knew I should find you—you are not a slave!— you are not black—’
‘Ah! Ulysse, it is too true; I am—’
‘No! no! no!’ the child stamped, and hung on him in a passion of tears. ’You shall not be a slave. My papa shall come with his soldiers and set you free.’
Altogether the boy’s vehemence, agitation, and terror were such that Arthur found it impossible to do anything but soothe and hush him, as best might be, till his sobs subsided gradually, still heaving his little chest even after he fell asleep in the arms of his unaccustomed nurse, who found himself thus baffled in using this last and only opportunity of trying to strengthen the child’s faith, and was also hindered from pursuing Yusuf, who had left the tent. And if it were separation that caused all this distress, what likelihood that Yusuf would encumber himself with a child who had shown such powers of wailing and screaming?
He durst not stir nor speak for fear of wakening the boy, even when Yusuf returned and stretched himself on his mat, drawing a thick woollen cloth over him, for the nights were chill. Long did Arthur lie awake under the strange sense of slavery and helplessness, and utter uncertainty as to his fate, expecting, in fact, that Yusuf meant to keep him as a sort of tame animal to talk Scotch; but hoping to work on him in time to favour an escape, and at any rate to despatch a letter to Algiers, as a forlorn hope for the ultimate redemption of the poor little unconscious child who lay warm and heavy across his breast. Certainly, Arthur had never so prayed for aid, light. and deliverance as now!
’The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks,
The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs. The deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.’